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When Can Employees Legally Go on Strike?

The tactic of going on strike is one of the oldest, and most famous, strategies used by the labor movement. Through careful organization, strikes have been used to secure better wages and working conditions for workers across the United States. However, striking is not always legal, and it is important to know when a strike is protected by the law, and when it is not.

What is a Strike?

A strike is a type of protest tactic used by labor unions and organizers to contest unfair labor practices. During a strike, all workers involved in the labor organization walk out on the job, refusing to do any work until they receive concessions from their employers. Often, this will be paired with protests conducted outside of an employer’s place of business, criticizing their unfair labor practices or other labor violations. Depending on the nature and extent of their complaints, it may potentially last days, weeks, or months.

Why is a Strike Effective?

Strikes are considered effective labor organizing tactics because they hurt employers where it hurts most: their bank accounts. While their employees are refusing to work, they are not shipping products or providing services to their customers, meaning they cannot make any money. However, they are constantly losing money due to persistent overhead costs (like rent, utilities, or taxes) that do not stop simply because no work is being done.

Why Might a Strike Be Illegal?

By default, all workers have the legal right to go on strike to protest unfair labor practices, poor working conditions, or insufficient wages or benefits. However, there is one circumstance where workers do not have a right to go on strike: if they have a valid binding union contract in place. This means that workers can only go on strike if they are either not currently organized in a union, or if their existing union contract is no longer valid.

What Should You Do if You Want to Strike?

If you are currently working for an employer and want to organize for better wages, better benefits, or better working conditions, you may wish to speak to a labor law attorney about your rights. They can assist you with determining what your options are, and assist you with the legal aspects of organizing a union. They can also help you seek legal remedies for any labor or employment law violations you may have suffered. The sooner you call, the sooner your lawyer can get to work helping you to get what you are entitled to.


If you have gotten into a legal dispute with your employer, it is important that you seek the guidance of an experienced New York employment lawyer who can protect your legal rights and advocate on your behalf. Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer with more than 40 years’ experience handling the many aspects of employment law. To schedule an appointment with New York City employment lawyer Steven Mitchell Sack, call (917) 371-8000 or visit his contact page.

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