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The right to strike is limited in the public sector. Why? Do you…

  • The right to strike is limited in the public sector. Why? Do you think public employees should have the same right to strike that federal law gives to private-sector employees? Why or why not?

 

How is this answer correct

 

Hello Class,

No person working for the federal government, state, or local public employer has a right to strike. The National Labor Relations Act protects the right of private-sector workers to strike and provides employees with other protections as well. There is no such protection for government employees who typically do not have collective bargaining rights in their state. Some people argue that the difference between private versus public sector workers should be based on their employment status, but others disagree with that saying only lawlessness is what allows certain individuals to have certain rights and privileges over others. In essence, many people believe that all citizens deserve equal treatment under the law.

The National Labor Relations Act, which was passed in 1935, protects the right of private-sector workers to strike. The law prevents employers from firing or otherwise discriminating against employees who strike. Employees can participate in “protected concerted activity,” which includes working together with other employees to discuss issues such as wages and benefits. Protected concerted activity also includes planning an action such as a walkout or picket; however, statements made in the workplace must not be made with any violent intentions or threats toward the employer. If an employer believes that its employees are threatening bad behavior such as violence, then it may attempt to fire them for misconduct, if applicable.

Another key employee protection is that of “mutual restraint.” An employer is not allowed to interfere with workers’ right to strike. In some cases, striking employees may be legally required to return to work once the employer and union representatives reach an agreement over their demands.

There are a few ways in which a public worker can exercise his or her rights under the National Labor Relations Act. For starters, workers have the right to peacefully protest on their own time as long as they do not engage in unlawful strikes or other bad behavior. Another way is through concerted activity, which includes any action that is intended to influence others in their working conditions or wages and benefits. If an employer believes that this work is in violation of its rights, it can try to fire the worker and prevent him or her from joining other employees in trying to improve their conditions. Another way is through “union security,” which prohibits employers from violating employees’ right to join a union or to not join a union.

People have the right to strike, but the National Labor Relations Act does not apply to government employees; therefore, they do not have the same rights as private-sector workers. There are some states in which government employees have the right to strike, but many oppose that. In fact, those who do not have the right to strike argue that it is pointless because public employers do not have the same obligations as private-sector employers. They also argue that they are protected by civil service laws and do not need additional protections from striking. Some individuals who support striking in public employment argue that states should follow civil service laws when determining whether or not to allow for strikes in this field. Others argue that government workers should get the same rights as everyone else despite civil service laws and despite being employed by the government because of their employment status over which they have no control. They argue that the government has an obligation to treat all workers equally.

The right to strike is limited in the public sector because it is not regulated by the National Labor Relations Act and states have different laws surrounding strikes. In federal law there is only a right to engage in collective bargaining. States can decide to enable employees who work in the public sector with collective bargaining rights and they can also enable employees with a right to strike. The majority of states do not allow their workers, who are employed by the government, to strike. There are some states that allow it, but they have stipulations such as prohibiting strikes if it would put public health or safety at risk or if there was an emergency situation happening where people’s lives were at risk.

States are split on whether or not they allow government employees to strike. Most states do not agree with allowing their employees to strike and most of the states that have allowed it in the past, have repealed those laws. The public sector is different from the private sector because the government does not have a profit motive and there is no stockholders, so it is difficult for workers to understand why they should be allowed to strike. States cannot afford for public workers to strike because this could result in a loss in tax revenue. Public workers are needed for certain services that would be missed if they went on strike such as provide health care and police services.

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