What is a Strike Action?

Matt Brady

More commonly known as a strike, a strike action is what happens when a group of employees conduct a work stoppage. Typically, a strike happens because of grievances the work force has with its employer. A strike is not usually just a form of protest in the workplace; workers generally use a strike action to pressure employers into meeting demands before returning to work. Strikes can be assembled by a union organizer, or by an informal group of employees united by a common cause. Throughout history, different methods of striking have been used, including sit-down strikes and rent strikes. In some cases, strikes can also be organized by non-laborers, such as tenants protesting housing conditions.

Within the U.S. airline industry, workers are legally permitted to strike only under certain conditions.
Within the U.S. airline industry, workers are legally permitted to strike only under certain conditions.

Depending on a region or country's labor laws, a strike action may or may not be a legally protected form of protest. In the United States (U.S.), federal legislation was passed in the 1930's to protect worker's and union's rights to organize and strike. Not all workers, however, are protected by the law. Airline and railroad workers in the U.S. are not legally allowed to strike except under certain conditions. Other countries, such as England, also have laws legalizing the strike action. Some nations, however, do not legally protect workers if they choose to strike, and may even oppose it.

Construction workers may strike to get better working conditions.
Construction workers may strike to get better working conditions.

There are many different method of striking. In a general strike, not only will a mass group of laborers cease working, but often non-workers will also join picket lines as a form of support. These types of strike actions are sometimes called sympathy strikes. To indisputably be considered a general strike, the strike action has to involve a large section of a community, uniting laborers and non-laborers in protest against a common grievance.

Sanitation strikes can cause public health issues.
Sanitation strikes can cause public health issues.

In a sit-down strike, laborers stop working but don't leave the workplace, continuing to occupy work stations to prevent employers from replacing them with non-strike workers. This has been employed throughout the world by many factory workers, and closely resembles the sit-down protests that went on during the civil rights era in the U.S. By not physically leaving the workplace until demands are met, laborers not only deprive employers of their work force, but also effectively shut down operations.

People on strike might stay at home to conserve money.
People on strike might stay at home to conserve money.

Not all strikes happen with disgruntled workers, however. Tenants conducting a rent strike, for example, stop paying rent to landlords to try to improve living conditions. Commuters in a fare strike can collectively stop paying money to ride the bus. Strikes can even be organized by political constituents attempting to influence politicians to pass progressive legislation.

Congress passed legislation in the 1930's to protect workers' and unions' rights to organize and strike.
Congress passed legislation in the 1930's to protect workers' and unions' rights to organize and strike.

Some laborers who aren't legally allowed to strike, or who aren't protected by a union, may attempt to creatively circumvent the law. In what's known as a sick-out, for example, a workforce might collectively call in sick, creating a strike under the protective guise of another action.

Picket lines are often part of a strike.
Picket lines are often part of a strike.

At times, unions will negotiate with employers to have certain demands met in order to avoid a strike action. In these cases, contracts are usually drawn up to formalize agreements and often include a no-strike clause, in which unions agree not to strike for an agreed period of time.

A strike may occur as a result of disagreements regarding employee pay.
A strike may occur as a result of disagreements regarding employee pay.
Railroad workers in the U.S. are not legally allowed to strike except under certain conditions.
Railroad workers in the U.S. are not legally allowed to strike except under certain conditions.

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Discussion Comments

Markerrag

Ever seen a strike. Nasty business. Both management and labor tend to come out on the losing side during those. The best companies that have unionized labor generally work out labor contracts regularly that both parties can at least live with and then stick to those agreements. Strikes generally occur between companies and unions that are typically in an adversarial relationship, but things don't have to be that way.

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