What types of strikes are legal and illegal?
Author: Irene Stavrellis Englert, Englert Legal Consulting, LLC
The following strikes are legal under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA):
- Economic strikes, in which employees attempt to pressure the employer to concede to their demands for improvements in wages, benefits or work rules;
- Unfair labor practice strikes, in protest of an employer's committing an unfair labor practice; and
- Sympathy strikes, which occur when employees choose not to cross a primary picket line out of sympathy for the primary striking employees.
Note that the terms of a collective bargaining agreement between the employer and union may limit or prohibit a union's right to engage in an economic strike.
The following strikes are illegal, and employees who engage in such strikes lose the protection of the NLRA:
- Intermittent strikes, involving the constant repetition of short strikes in which the employees attempt to pressure the employer to concede to their demands while still receiving wages;
- "Work to rule" or slowdown strikes, in which employees fail to perform the duties which the employer has historically required them to perform;
- In-facility or "sit down" strikes, in which the striking employees take possession of the employer's property and block others from entering;
- Recognitional or organization picketing when the employer has lawfully recognized another union, or when a valid election has been conducted within the preceding 12 months;
- Secondary boycotts, in which the employees picket a neutral employer; and
- Violence and mass picketing.