Should government workers go on strike? | The Tylt
Should government workers go on strike?
If all government employees effected by the shutdown walked off the job and took to the streets, they would be a force lawmakers would no longer be able to ignore. Per the New York Times:
With even a minority of them participating, it would create huge logistical problems at airports and elsewhere. Americans who support the workers could join them on the picket lines. The day after the strike, the federal workers could return to their jobs, as a sign of their commitment. The threat of future strikes would be clear. The human effects of the shutdown would no longer be so easy for the country to ignore.
By striking, government employees would be able to cause citizens and lawmakers so much discomfort they could no longer put off finding a solution.
It has long been illegal for government employees to strike as they are deemed too important to the continued functioning of the nation. The Washington Post reports unions have been attempting to sue on behalf of the workers, to no avail.
The law forbids federal employees from striking, which is why a number of federal unions and workers have taken to the courts, alleging everything from violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act to claims that demanding workers show up for their jobs even though they have no idea when they will receive a paycheck amounts to “indentured servitude” and is an unconstitutional violation of the 13th Amendment.
Many are worried about repeating the situation workers faced in 1981, when the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization went on strike. President Ronald Reagan took control of the situation and fired 11,000 workers and replaced them with military personnel.
There have been protests around the country, from Boston to Memphis to the White House, to no avail. The Hill reports some protesters staged a sit-in outside Senate Leader Mitch McConnell's office, demanding the leader vote to reopen the government. For their trouble, some were arrested, adding fines and court dates to the issues they are already facing.
The protesters were later shown being zip-tied and detained by Capitol Police officers. Chants of "we want to work" and "where is Mitch?" could be heard as individuals were escorted out of the building.
Many T.S.A. agents are already lodging their own protest, called a "blue flu." 5.6 percent of T.S.A. agents have called in sick, a dramatic uptick from the standard numbers. The New York Times reports many experts are encouraging workers to strike despite the legal issues, saying strikes in 2019 would be far different than in the past.
A strike by T.S.A. agents, as federal workers, would be illegal, as was the wave of public-sector strikes in the 1960s and ’70s. But this time is different, said Michael M. Oswalt, an associate professor of law at Northern Illinois University College of Law, who studies federal labor relations. “A strike over involuntary work would raise not just novel legal issues but important and unprecedented questions about the value of public service and middle-class employment in our country,” he said.