What is a Strike?
A strike is the legal withholding of one’s labor in an attempt to bring economic pressure to bear on the employer. This is the Union's self-help remedy. No one can be fired for legally striking. To union members a strike means sacrifice for themselves and their families and is not entered into frivolously.
When can a Union strike?
The Railway Labor Act was designed to keep stoppage of the nation's transportation systems to a minimum during disputes between unions and carriers. There is a system for negotiation and dispute resolution to give both sides ample opportunity to resolve differences. These steps are:
Voluntary Negotiations - The parties first meet voluntarily to negotiate a contract. If the parties cannot reach an agreement voluntarily a request is made for mediated negotiations.
Mediated Negotiations - The NMB assigns a mediator to the negotiations. The mediator's main duty is to facilitate progress during the negotiations. When progress between the parties can no longer be achieved (parties are at impasse) the mediator is empowered to release the parties to exercise self-help measures. Prior to release there is a 30-day cooling off period. Usually "Super Mediation" is conducted just prior to release and a proffer to arbitrate the dispute is made.
Release - The parties are released to exercise self-help measures. For the union this is the only time when a strike may legally take place. The carrier may implement their last and final offer and may hire temporary or permanent replacements in the event of a strike.
Presidential Emergency Board – The U.S. President, by law, may intervene upon release by assigning a PEB to the dispute. This can delay self-help measures for up to 240 days if all procedures are followed.
Who calls a strike?
It is a myth that union leadership calls strikes. Only the pilots involved can make the decision to go on strike, and only then by a majority vote as determined by the member pilots themselves. Organized employees know that the decision to strike has economic impacts on both the employees and the employer.
How frequent are strikes?
Not frequent at all. In 98 percent of all OPEIU collective bargaining negotiations agreements are reached without a strike.
Are strikes really necessary?
No, the OPEIU believes that if pilots and management discuss issues in an atmosphere of mutual respect and concern strikes should not occur. Further, there are many strategies that can be implemented short of a strike to force a carrier to negotiate in good faith.