For now, retail workers have positioned themselves smartly by striking over employers’ unfair labor practices. Legally, ULP strikers cannot be permanently replaced, and they avoid restrictions on intermittent strikes.
Ultimately, though, the goal must be to force concessions from employers, big enough concessions to convince workers of the benefits of unionization. It is unlikely that legal, short-duration, harassing strikes can force such concessions from the nation’s largest corporations.
Unions cannot escape the fact that effective strikes will mean civil disobedience and illegal tactics that disrupt business as usual.
We can look to history for guidance. In 1958, there were only 15 public employee strikes in the entire nation. Public employee unions were weak and ineffectual. Their leaders did not believe in the right to strike, and most union constitutions prohibited striking.
Yet a generation of union reformers fought for a change in strategy. They removed the strike prohibitions from their union constitutions and boldly asserted their right to violate injunctions.
In one of the greatest campaigns of civil disobedience in U.S. history, between 1 million and 2 million public workers engaged in illegal strikes during the 1960s and 1970s.
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September 02, 2013 07:00 AM