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The Need For Union Strength

Workers have been able to find power in leveraging the less-than-human, machine-part status assigned to them by the relatively new industrial environment of mechanized work by collectively refusing to fulfill their roles as parts of the industrial machine as a means to protest workplace injustices and demand higher wages, better working conditions, and other necessary improvements. This popular tactic, the strike, has been used among organizers of all different fields of labor and is still used today.

The root cause of strikes, in general, is a failure to compromise with regards to employer and employee demands; given the obvious imbalance in power, failures to compromise that lead workers to strike typically occur at the hand of the employer. Working to lessen the rift between employer and employee would make for a much less tense, dichotomous workplace dynamic, likely making workers less inclined to strike.

Strikes not only cause problems for the employer/business for which the striking employees work, but often for the general populis, as well. From truck drivers’ strikes of the 1960s preventing people from receiving necessary fuel in the dead of winter, to the teachers’ strikes of 2018 interrupting the education of hundreds of students, strikes can have serious implications for large portions of the population. That being said, it would make sense for the government to take on the role of creating a more balanced employer-employee power dynamic in which strikes are potentially less likely to occur.

A possible means through which the government (at the state or potentially the federal level) can (and should) facilitate the strengthening of unions would be the elimination of “right to work” laws; these laws allow workers to benefit from union bargaining without actually joining/supporting the union, which is likely to weaken unions in the long run, diminishing their ability to advocate for workers and bargain effectively with employers. The majority of the teacher strikes that took place all over the country this past year, for example, were organized by teachers from right to work states, where a lack of compulsory union membership/fees likely rendered their bargaining power less substantial, creating a need to strike for better pay and benefits.

Overall, strikes can be (intentionally) extremely disruptive to businesses and society overall. As such, government officials should take action to strengthen the bargaining forces of unions, decreasing the need for workers to go on strike to bring attention to their demands.

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