Strikes, Lockouts and Other "Economic Weapons": Florida
Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.
Author: Kamilah L. Perry, Phelps Dunbar, LLP
- Private sector employees are guaranteed the right to strike, with certain restrictions. See Employees' Rights to Strike.
- All strikes must be authorized by the majority vote of union employees and must be conducted in a peaceful and non-violent manner. See Employees' Rights to Strike.
- Even though federal law pre-empts state court enforcement of private labor matters, Florida state courts can prevent, stop or control strikes and picketing that involve threats or violence. See Employees' Rights to Strike.
- Florida law imposes civil remedies as well as criminal penalties for engagement in illegal strikes and picketing. See Penalties / Remedies.
Employees' Rights to Strike
Private sector employees are guaranteed the right to strike, with certain restrictions. Any strike, walkout or cessation of work must be authorized by the majority vote of union employees by secret ballot. See +Fla. Stat. § 447.09(3) and (4).However, the requirement of a majority vote is a condition precedent only for the actual act of striking; a strike may be lawfully invited, induced, signaled or announced without a majority vote. See Johnson v. White Swan Laundry, +41 So.2d 874 (Fla. 1949).
A strike also cannot be caused by a jurisdictional dispute, or grievance regarding a disagreement between, or within, labor unions. See +Fla. Stat. § 447.09(10). Employees also may not seize or occupy property unlawfully during the existence of any strike or labor dispute. See +Fla. Stat. § 447.09(9).
Notwithstanding these restrictions on strikes, the statute expressly states that "nothing in the Labor Law shall be construed so as to interfere with or impede or diminish in any way the right to strike". See +Fla. Stat § 447.13.
Picketing cannot be engaged in by force and violence, or in such a manner that will prevent ingress and egress to and from the worksite. In other words, all picketing must be done in a reasonable and peaceable manner. Picketing also cannot take place beyond the area of the industry or place of employment where the labor dispute arises. See +Fla. Stat. § 447.09(12)(13).
It is also unlawful to picket the home, or injure the person or property of any public official, or his or her family. See +Fla. Stat. § 447.09(11).
Florida state courts lack the jurisdiction to prohibit peaceful organizational picketing, even if such activity is arguably prohibited under federal law, regardless of whether the National Labor Relations Board exercises its jurisdiction. See Hotel Emp. Union, Local No. 255 v. Sax Enterprises, Inc., +358 U.S. 270 (1959). However, state courts may intervene to enjoin certain labor disputes, such as mass picketing, picketing involving threats or violence, picketing of private residences and picketing that obstructs streets and highways. See International Ladies Garment Workers Union, Local Chapter No. 415 v. Sherry Mfg. Co., +115 So. 2d 27 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1959).
Picketing conducted for the purpose of inducing an employer to subscribe to a closed-shop collective bargaining agreement is also unlawful, and may be enjoined by state courts. See Local Union No. 519 of United Ass'n of Journeymen and Apprentices of Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of U.S. and Canada v. Robertson, +44 So. 2d 899 (Fla. 1950). A closed shop agreement is a form of a union agreement where the employer agrees to hire union members only, and employees must remain members of the union at all times in order to remain employed.
The general rule in Florida is that boycotting is lawful to the extent that its purposes are within the realm of legitimate union activity. However, secondary boycotting is unlawful. A secondary boycott is an attempt to influence the actions of the employer, with whom the union has a dispute, by exerting pressure on another business, with whom there is no dispute. See Miami Federation of Musicians Local Union No. 655 Am. Federation of Musicians v. Wompearce, Inc., +76 So. 2d 298 (Fla. 1954).
However, as with peaceful strikes and picketing, the National Labor Relations Board has exclusive jurisdiction over most union matters, and Florida courts have no jurisdiction to prohibit a union from engaging in a secondary boycott, unless there is an agreement between the NLRB and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation where the NLRB has specifically waived its jurisdiction.
Penalties / Remedies
Florida law imposes criminal penalties for engagement in illegal strikes and picketing. Violation of +Fla. Stat. § 447.09 constitutes a second degree misdemeanor and is punishable by a term of imprisonment not exceeding 60 days and/or a fine of $500. See +Fla. Stat. § 447.14. Further, any person sustaining injury as a result of any violation or threatened violation of +Fla. Stat. § 447.09 can also obtain injunctive relief against any and all violators or persons threatening a violation of these laws. See +Fla. Stat. § 447.17.
There are no developments to report at this time. Continue to check XpertHR regularly for the latest information on this and other topics.