News stories about workers having a strike are everywhere in New York and across the U.S. Strikes are a critical negotiating tool when dealing with complex collective bargaining issues. For those who are confronted with the need to stage a walkout and seek better pay, benefits and more, it is important to understand what the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) says about the legality of organizing a strike. As with any issue related to labor law, having help from a law firm that specializes in helping unions is key.
Strikes are protected in “concerted activities” of employees as part of collective bargaining. There is a right for workers to strike, but there are limits on why they can strike. A strike being lawful might hinge on why the workers are striking in the first place, when the strike is taking place, and the way the strikers are behaving. It can be complicated to gauge the reason why the strike is taking place. Frequently, the NLRB will need to decide on this. When it is a strike for a lawful object, they can be economic strikers and strikers based on unfair labor practices. In general, if the strike is due to unfair labor practice, the workers will have more rights to be reinstated to their jobs.
Economic strikers are seeking improvements like better wages, a reduction in working hours, improved working conditions and the like. They will keep their employee status and cannot be dismissed. However, the employer has the right to replace them. If there are legitimate replacements and the striking workers seek to get back to work, they are not automatically entitled to be reinstated. When they do not get equivalent employment, they have the right to be recalled to their former job if there is an opening or their union representative has made that unconditional request.
Many labor disputes stem from the desire on the part of workers to improve their station with higher wages and other benefits. Understanding what the law says for economic strikers is critical for the union and the workers to achieve their desired ends. For this and any other issue with collective bargaining, employee benefits and adhering to labor law, a law firm that works with unions is imperative.