NEW YORK NURSE: November/December 2011
Q.: Contract negotiations at my facility have been growing increasingly difficult. It seems as though our bargaining unit may need to vote to authorize a strike in order to force management to address our issues. Can you tell me what will happen if we cast a vote to strike?
A.: There are different names for strikes including “job action,” “withholding of services,” or “walkout.” Regardless of the name, a strike is a decision made by the members of a union to not work for the employer until a dispute over the terms and conditions of employment are resolved. At NYSNA, we consider A strike to be the last resort.
The National Labor Relations act protects the rights of striking private sector workers. As long as proper procedures are followed, management is in violation of the law if it attempts to prevent you from striking or harasses you for doing so.
You cannot be fired for striking. However, management has the right to permanently replace you as an “economic” striker. An economic strike is conducted in protest of wages, hours, or working conditions.
Another type is an “unfair labor practice strike,” which can be triggered by the employer's violation of a contract or labor statutes. Unfair labor practice strikers can’t be locked out, fired, or permanently replaced. Public sector nurses do not have a legal right to strike.
By law, NYSNA is required to give the employer a minimum of a 10-day notice of intent to strike. During these 10 days, the New York State Health Department will review the employer’s strike plan and will determine whether the hospital may continue to operate, if it must curtail services, or even shut down.
Once a strike begins, each and every member of the bargaining unit stops going to work, and instead works to support the strike by picketing and participating in other strike support activities. Many members also work another job. You may not continue working at the hospital during a strike.
It’s important that NYSNA nurses attend membership meetings to get your questions answered and to make your voices heard!
The NYSNA EGW Program receives many inquiries each month from members who have problems in their workplaces. If you have a question about labor relations at your facility, contact your NYSNA nursing representative. If you have a question you think should be featured in this column, send it to: RNs at Work, NYSNA, 120 Wall Street, 23rd Floor, New York, N.Y. 10005.