The Strike of 2006: Isn't this a lockout?

After I got home from a fine and fun evening not at all related to the strike (well, maybe sort of related to it), I was reading through some email and responding to some comments, thinking about how the main reason we aren’t in the classroom right now is, basically, because the administration left the table and won’t talk to us anymore.

That got me thinking: isn’t that a “lockout?”

I am far from a lawyer or labor specialist; so, lacking any expertise, I did what lots of people do. I went to wikipedia and typed in “lockout.” The entry is here, but this is a quote from what it says:

A lockout is a work stoppage in which an employer prevents employees from working. This is differentiated from a strike, in which employees refuse to work. Sometimes, a lockout happens when only part of a trade union votes to strike. In such a scenario, the purpose of a lockout is to put pressure on a union by reducing the number of members who are able to work. For example, if part of the workers strike so that the work of the rest becomes impossible or less productive, the employer may declare a lockout until the workers end the strike.

Other times, particularly in the United States, a lockout occurs when union membership rejects the company’s last, best and final offer at negotiations and offers to return to work under the same conditions of employment as existed under the now expired contract. In such a case, the lockout is designed to pressure the workers into accepting the terms of the company’s last offer.

The second paragraph here seems to match the situation we’re in now pretty closely. They’ve given us what they have labled the “last, best, and final offer,” they have said that the only way they’ll talk is if we give up the strike, and it is a move to pressure workers to accept the last offer.

So, isn’t that a lockout after a fashion?

Is that legal? Is there any kind of action the union can take on this, if it is a lockout? Why aren’t we as a union calling it a lockout?

3 thoughts on “The Strike of 2006: Isn't this a lockout?”

  1. Union Busting (from Wikipedia):

    The following tactics are sometimes used:

    Supervisors and managers can deliver letters, speeches, and informal chats, sometimes prepared by a union-buster.

    Employees may be asked to attend one-on-one discussions, group meetings, or lectures about the union, during which they will be paid. Employers must be careful not to intimidate their employees, because employees can appeal to the NLRB, usually resulting in an election being rerun, and in some cases resulting in the employer being automatically required to recognize the union as the bargaining unit representing employees. At these meetings, employers discuss the negative aspects of a union and try to convince employees not to join.

    In some cases, supervisors and managers will walk the floors more frequently and arrange impromptu chats and meetings to find out what their workers are up to. However, this can also be interpreted as intimidation and can get the employer in trouble.

    The union-busters may prepare many letters to be signed by administrators, employees, and well-liked supervisors and managers. They may express appreciation for what the employees have done for the company, admit having made mistakes in the past and express an intention to do a better job in the future. They may also paint an ugly picture of the union or suggest that the union is hiding something. Lying to employees however, is strictly forbidden.

    To convince employees that they don’t need a union to obtain improvements, a company may provide unexpected increases in wages or benefits, although they cannot condition said benefits or wages on union participation or threaten wage cuts.

    In extreme cases the union-buster may direct management to play one group of employees against another to generate disunity (e.g. “disloyal” union supporters versus “loyal” union opponents, one department against another, etc.). This would likely result in harsh penalties for the company.

    United States Labor law presents very strict guidelines for both employer and union actions in union organizing. Unions and employers can attempt to present their factual case against or for the union, but employers cannot threaten employees or even make them feel intimidated. The union buster’s key strategy, when confronted with an election, is to organise a Counter-Organizing drive.

    Strike Breaking (from Wikipedia)

    Strike breaking is the practice of using intimidation, coercion, legislation, or even violence to break the support for a union strike or to force strikers back to work.

    Non-legislative measures usually involve the use of non-unionized replacement workers, derogatively referred to by union members as “scabs”. Union busting uses similar tactics to sap support for a union or disrupt a union organizing campaign.

    In the early days of unionization, the Pinkerton Detective Agency was notorious for its use of violence against unionized workers. However, there are many examples where even police forces and National Guard units have been used to “keep the peace” during strikes, while using most of its force against the workers.

  2. It’s not a lockout, as the union has not offered “to return to work under the same conditions of employment as existed under the now expired contract”.

    It is, however, an unfair labor practices strike, to protest the Regents’ refusal to bargain in good faith.

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