Probably the single most effective weapon in labor’s arsenal against unfair treatment by management is the strike. A strike, however, may take different forms and be precipitated by many different reasons.
For example, the most common form of strike is the pure economic strike. An economic strike occurs when employees decide to withhold their labor in order to leverage an increase in wages.
Another common form of strike occurs when employees withhold their services to protest their employer’s commission of an unfair labor practice. (Unfair labor practices are actions specifically prohibited by Section 8 of the Labor Management Relations Act.) This form of strike occurs, for example, if a union goes on strike because an employer has refused to engage in good faith collective bargaining as they are required to do so under the Labor Management Relations Act.
A union may also strike to obtain recognition from a nonunion employer. Recognitional strikes, however, are the least effective because they may only occur for a limited period of time and are easily circumvented since they often engaged in without the support of a majority of the employees of the struck employer.
THE POWER OF PROTEST
I have recently discovered yet another novel use for the labor protest which was extremely effective in prompting a favorable resolution to litigation I was involved in concerning the Knitting Factory and its record labels.
On Dec. 15, Local 802, on behalf of several recording artists engaged in a well-received labor protest/boycott against the Knitting Factory demanding the return of these artists’ back stock, payment of royalty arrearage and the return of their master recordings.
About six months earlier I had, on behalf of these recording artists, initiated litigation in New York State Supreme Court, in which they sought a legal remedy to this dispute. Needless to say, the announcement of the boycott and the attendant publicity accomplished in hours, what would have surely taken years, had the suit run its course through the judicial process.
The phenomenal success of this demonstration is a testament to the power that a strike/boycott can have even in non-traditional settings.
We hope to use this form of labor protest as a blueprint for future endeavors, both within and without traditional labor contexts.