Overview: While the word "strike" is not a welcome word in the vocabulary of employers, unions and employees are permitted under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), to engage in strikes to:
Sympathy strikes, which occur when employees choose not to cross a primary picket line out of sympathy for the primary striking employees may also be lawful. Some strikes (such as, intermittent strikes, violence and mass picketing, partial strikes, work to rule, and sit down strikes) are unlawful and employers can terminate employees who engage in them.
There are rules that apply to employers prior to a strike, during a strike and following a strike. Prior to a strike, employers can encourage union employees notto participate in the strike and can urge strikers to return to work. Such encouragement must be free from threats, intimidation or promises of benefits.
During a strike, employers can stop paying striking employees or contributing to their benefits (but COBRA documents must be sent). Following a strike, an employer may have certain reinstatement obligations to striking employees which may vary depending on the type of strike (legal vs. illegal; economic vs. unfair labor practice). Employers may limit a union's right to strike through a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
Trends: More and more, a solid preparation scheme for strikes includes:
Author: Melissa Boyce, JD, Legal Editor
Updated to reflect development relating to the resolution of an impasse between the state and bargaining units of state employees, effective July 1, 2017.
Kentucky is now the nation's 27th right-to-work state, making it illegal for workers to be required to join a union or pay dues as a condition of employment. Governor Matt Bevin signed the legislation on January 9, which took effect immediately.
Updated to reflect the criminalization of harassment, stalking and threats to use a weapon of mass destruction during labor disputes, effective January 4, 2016.
This briefing for supervisors examines the law and best practices for handling picketing and union strikes, including understanding employee rights and employer remedies against unlawful action as well as replacing and terminating striking employees.
This How To details the steps a prudent employer should take to prepare and continue business operations during a strike.
HR guidance on preparing for union strikes.