What Does It Mean To Go On Strike In America?
If you have turned on the news or looked at the front page of the paper, I am sure you have heard about the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) strike. Unions will go on strike for various reasons. The negotiation, reasons, and timing can vary, depending on the context of the terms that are being debated. With the WGA walking out on their jobs, it will affect those TV shows and films that are about to start or wrap up. You may have to wait to see what happens to your favorite characters until next fall. They definitely have the perfect timing for a strike, when so many loose ends are just about to be tied up until next season.
What is a strike and is it lawful for employees to take part in it during negotiations?
The National Labor Relations Act addresses the issue of strikes in Section 7: “Employees shall have the right … to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” The government does allow for the right to strike with limitations and some restrictions on the striking process. There are lawful and unlawful strikes. When entering into a strike, an experienced lawyer should always be contacted to ensure that you do not face any repercussions for an unlawful strike or violate the agreements that are set forth and detailed for a lawful strike. If this is an unlawful strike, you could face issues by not being reinstated into your existing position or suffer financial consequences.
This type of strike is either an economic strike or an unfair labor practice strike.
The WGA is in an economic strike. Like many unions or organizations, contracts are established to create a checks-and-balances system for the employees’ security. Those contracts have renegotiation dates within the terms. The WGA has their contract on the table for wage renegotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents eight major studios: Amazon, Apple, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, NBC Universal, Netflix, Paramount and Sony. (CBS News and Paramount+ are owned by Paramount Global.) Economic strikes do not guarantee that your job will be there when then this issue is resolved. You may have the ability to receive higher pay, but that job has already been filled by someone while you were on the picket line.
If you are striking for unfair labor practices, then you have more security when the issue is resolved. The employees participating in this strike, for the most part, cannot be fired or replaced by the employees hired during the strike. If you are not reinstated in your position, then you may have rights to receive financial compensation and your prior position.
If the employees are striking to request that the employer make changes outside of the previous set agreements, the employees are not within their rights to strike and be supported by the security of their existing job or finances.
Some companies and unions have a no-strike clause in their contracts. However, if you conduct a walkout because of dangerous health conditions, then you may not be in violation of the unlawful strike policy in The Act.
In an unlawful strike, you do run the risk of losing your job and opportunity for any financial compensation. Some strikes are started at the end of a contract when negotiations are at a stalemate and there is a labor dispute. However, striking to merely change the terms of a contract that do not relate to wages or unfair labor practices is considered unlawful and can have great consequences to the employees. Since this can be seen as unlawful, depending on the terms of the renegotiation, employees most often do not have the security of maintaining their existing jobs when the dispute is resolved.
Healthcare workers fall under an exclusive type of agreement with regards to strikes. The National Labor Relations Act specifically states in Section 8(g) that anyone working within any healthcare institution is required to provide ten days’ notice in writing to their company and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. As we saw during COVID, a mass walkout of healthcare workers can create a devastatingly negative effect on the people of that area.
Whatever the reason for the strike, all employees who are participating have to maintain a standard of decorum and professionalism. Violence and stopping the company from continuing to do business can have serious consequences for all participants.
Strikes can not only have a grave impact on the company or union, but, depending on the amount of time it takes to reach an agreement, employees and the consumers can be financially affected by loss of pay and higher prices. The entertainment industry has already lost around $10 billion since the start of this strike.
If your fellow employees are now talking about the benefits of a strike for your organization, make sure you know all of the facts before putting your job and future on the line. Steven Mitchell Sack is “The Employee’s Lawyer” and can help you navigate this potentially dangerous path for you and your co-workers. Call today at (917) 371-8000 for a consultation if you are interested in learning more about what a strike would mean for you, or visit our website at www.theemployeeslawyer.com for more information.