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Do public sector unions have the right to strike?
If not, what recourse do they have at an impasse?
Public sector unions are allowed to strike in only 11 states and are limited to the group of employees who can strike. In most cases, the police officers and firefighters are banned from striking since this could pose a threat to public safety (Hiltzik, 2013). In the same breath, however, teachers, transit workers, clerks and park rangers are allowed to strike. It is evident that the strike by this group of people poses an economic threat to the country. The main aim of trade unions is to act as third parties in employer/ employee relationships. In essence, unions enhance the bargaining power of the workers at the expense of the employers. Their major focus is to ensure that the workers are fairly compensated, work under safe and humane conditions and are not dismissed unfairly from their workplaces. This works well in the private sector where workers do not have the voice against the capitalists who may end up offering lower wages for their work (Mello, 2015).
The case is however different in the public sector where the employers are the taxpayers and consumers are the needy individuals who may need the services of the public workers. As such, shifting the bargaining power to the public would not give them the justice they need (Hiltzik, 2013). Besides, public workers usually work under de-facto monopolies hence could be getting fair compensation as opposed to their private counterparts. In the history of the US, the American government and society have never supported public union strikes. Public unions can only seek collective bargaining through holding talks with the state and local governments as opposed to going on strikes since they can lose their jobs such as the 1981 incident when President Reagan fired 11, 000 air traffic controllers after they ignored his directive to go back to job after striking (Mello, 2015).
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- Hiltzik, M. (2013). Why Public Employees Should Have the Right to Strike. Los Angeles Times. October 24, 2913. Web. Retrieved on January 26, 2018.
- Mello, J., (2015). Strategic human resource management. (4th ed.). Stamford, CT: Cengage Publishing.