Essay Topic: Using the BART strike as an example, under what circumstances should a Union strike in this day and age?
Essay Submission By Patrick McCullough II
This topic has affected me. I have my license but don’t drive myself. My girlfriend drives but we mainly depend on BART to go to San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland. A lot of our friends use BART to get to school and go places, too. So, every day without BART was a pain. But, I’ve learned to think about the other people and not be too selfish.
The employees are people like my dad. When I was around 3 or 4 years old, my dad dressed me up in a power ranger costume with a sign saying “Master Blaster” on the back, and carried me on his shoulders into a city council meeting where his fellow technicians and electricians demanded fair treatment. (Master Blaster was the similarly sized man who harnessed the energy and made electricity for Barter Town in the Road Warrior movie.)
Their contract had expired two years ago and they felt they weren’t appreciated and were being taken advantage of. Some were very afraid that if they went on strike or did a sick-out, they’d be fired or locked out and wouldn’t have any money and benefits for their families. But everybody agreed they needed to do something besides just take it. They talked to negotiators, talked to the city council, got in newspaper articles, and, then, picketed, before getting strike sanction from the Alameda County Labor Council. The refuse workers in SEIU said they’d back them for one day. All of IBEW except for 1 guy stayed away from work that day. They agreed on the new contract the night of the day they came back.
It’s a complex decision, but a union should strike when it is clear the employer’s disrespect for the workers is affecting the existence or utilization of employee rights and the employer’s intransigence cannot be stopped or ameliorated by other means.
Some of the things to look at:
A union must communicate to the public and other labor organizations why they will strike.
Are statements about costs, surveys, personnel, rules and efficiency statistics 100% factual, or are they false or misleading statements designed to unfairly gain advantage?
Are negotiations treated like they’re a top priority? Or are meetings subject to the employer’s convenience or whimsical vacation schedules?
Are the employer’s public statements truthful and full of respect for their employees, though disagreeing on contractual terms? Or, are the employer’s statements untruthful, misleading, or snarky?
Would the public be hurt in their health, safety or national defense? Or would most of the public experience only tolerable inconvenience and appreciate the strike as benefitting all workers?
These are the things to consider. A balance must be made between what can be gained and what will surely be lost. It’s hard to be very courageous when you’ve got mouths to feed and it would be very hard to justify an irreplaceable loss in the family income if just a little more effort, patience and creative thinking could do the trick.