Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Truth About Strike

You have a right to strike

When Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, it guaranteed workers the right to join unions and the legal right to strike. Likewise in Canada, workers have the right to join unions and strike. Without these rights, we'd be working for slave wages, as they do in countries where there are no worker rights and no freedom.

Employer strike propaganda

Even though this is one of our basic rights, employers always picture striking workers as unreasonable, violent people. They never mention why the workers decided to strike nor do they talk about the victories won by striking employees. The goal of an employer's strike propaganda is to create the impression that union members are always on strike.

Strikes are big news

It is easy to create that impression because strikes receive a lot of media attention. Strikes are the kind of dramatic event that gets front page coverage, while stories of peaceful settlements are not reported or end up on the back pages.

Strikes are uncommon

Strikes are very, very uncommon. U.S. Department of Labor statistics show that:

Only one work day out of a thousand is lost due to a strike (one-tenth of a percent).

In the latest year for which statistics are available, only 5percent of all union members were involved in a strike. More than 60percent of all strikes were resolved in less than 30 days, and 88 percent end in 60 days.

Ninety-eight percent of all labor agreements are reached without a strike.
Strike activity has declined significantly in recent years.

Strike procedures

The union staff and officers cannot call a strike without authorization by the members. The union constitution and by-laws say that a strike can only occur after a two-thirds majority of the employees in your plant vote for such action. Strike votes are also subject to these provisions:

Reasonable notice of a strike meeting.

Recommendation by the elected negotiating committee.

Approval by the GCC/IBT General Board
Approval by GCC/IBT president.

Strikes are sometimes necessary

When all else fails, employees sometimes feel that their best chance is to strike to win their contract needs. This usually happens when employers are unreasonable and need to be shown how valuable the contribution of workers really is. The right to strike is a potent weapon in the right to gain a fair contract. The exercise of that precious right is entirely up to the members. But without a credible threat to strike, the employer may not deal fairly with employees. When there is no recourse but to strike, strike or sacrifice benefits – although not comparable to regular wages – may be available. Such benefits are not available if your local union does not participate in the Emergency and Special Defense Fund.


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