Tuesday, February 22, 2011

General Strike

Wisconsin State Journal:

The 97-union South Central Federation of Labor voted Monday night to prepare for a general strike that would take place if Gov. Scott Walker succeeds in enacting his budget repair bill, which would strip most bargaining rights from most public employee unions.

The strike would call for union and non-union workers in large swaths of the workforce to stop working, said Carl Aniel, labor federation delegate from AFSCME Local 171.

I didn't want to sound like a romantic undergraduate socialist by bringing this up myself, but since they -- and the South Central Federation of Labor includes several AFT locals -- have gone there, I will too. If this bill cannot be stopped indefinitely, a general strike is the next move. General strikes are, of course, illegal in the US, but then again, if this bill passes, regular strikes and lots of other just and reasonable union activity will be too. So why not? US labor law has made our unions tame, lazy and bureaucratic and overwhelmingly bought labor peace for generations. Throw it away and you just might get chaos as your reward. Probably not. But maybe.


Stephen Downes said...

General strikes are illegal in the U.S.? Seriously?

I think that any government that tried to make them illegal in Canada would be laughed out of office.

Tom Hoffman said...

Actually, Googling around for some documentation, this note came up on Politico:

"General strikes are not illegal under Taft-Hartley, but do lack certain protections for workers that are extended to other strikes."


I suppose it depends on your definition of "illegal." You probably can't literally be thrown in jail for participating in a secondary strike, but it is not considered protected in any way. You're just a shmoe who didn't show up for work. And it might be considered racketeering or an anti-trust violation if you're the leader.