Employers Should Prepare for Rare General Strike

Author: Marta Moakley, XpertHR Legal Editor

February 15, 2017

Employers may face a rare general strike as soon as February 17. Activists and strike organizers are seeking to demonstrate against the policies of the current administration and congressional majority leaders. The call to action has been widely covered by the media, and has been the subject of numerous social media posts. Employers should plan to respond to any workplace disruptions and to address work rules violations in a timely manner.

Activists and grass-roots movements organizing for a general strike involve entire communities of workers. These types of strikes are not generally protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protects work stoppages only under certain, limited circumstances, including:

  • For purposes of union recognition;
  • Economic strikes; and
  • For protesting alleged unfair labor practices by employers.

The NLRA protects both union and non-union members, as long as the workers are engaging in a strike that is related to the terms and conditions of employment. A general strike in protest of national policies would, as a general rule, not be covered by the NLRA.

While these types of demonstrations are rare occurrences in the US, employers may prepare by reviewing:

  • Existing applicable collective bargaining agreements;
  • Any workplace policies that may be relevant, including those that address workplace absences, discipline and political activity; and
  • Any state law that may expand employee protections regarding off-duty political activities.

Alternate and/or additional dates for general strikes have been suggested by activists, including March 8 (International Women's Day) and May 1 (May Day).