On Wednesday, March 8, women around the world — and, as well, the United States — are being urged to refuse to perform “paid or unpaid” work, aka ‘to strike.’
With their “demands” ranging from higher pay and pay equity to free abortion on demand, free education and the destruction of Israel, liberal women will be taking to the streets to make their voices heard.
According to its organizers, the idea behind the strike is for women to engage in a combination of actions (or inactions, as it were)…
The idea is to mobilize women, including trans women, and all who support them in an international day of struggle – a day of striking, marching, blocking roads, bridges, and squares, abstaining from domestic, care and sex work, boycotting, calling out misogynistic politicians and companies, striking in educational institutions. These actions are aimed at making visible the needs and aspirations of those whom lean-in feminism ignored: women in the formal labor market, women working in the sphere of social reproduction and care, and unemployed and precarious working women.
A Day Without A Woman strike organizers are specifically asking women to 1) take the day off from paid or unpaid labor; 2) avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses); 3) wear RED “in solidarity” with A Day Without a Woman.
So far, despite organizers’ statement that “all workers must have the right to organize and fight for a living minimum wage,” the #ADayWithoutWomen strike has had little overt support from many of the nation’s labor unions.
Although school districts, like those in North Carolina, Virginia and elsewhere may choose to allow their employees to strike (or call out, as in the teachers’ case), those are public-sector employees and the decision to give striking teachers a pass is one of politics with the costs being borne by taxpayers and the affected schoolchildren.
In the private sector, however, most employers (with or without unions) may not be able to shut their operations down for a strike that lasts for only a day.
To complicate matters further, as the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) covers both union and union-free workers in most private-sector settings and provides both types of workers the right to strike, striking is not without peril.
Employees who strike — whether or not they are represented by a union — can be replaced for striking.
Moreover, in some cases, they can even be fired, if they engage in a strike that is in violation of a collective bargaining agreement.
For example, under the NLRA, union members who work under collective bargaining agreements (or contracts) are usually forbidden from engaging in strikes while a contract is in effect.
“A typical collective bargaining agreement prevents strikes during the contract term as a quid pro quo for the grievance and arbitration process,” says Michael Lotito, a renowned labor attorney and co-chair of Littler’s Workplace Policy Institute. “That is the deal. When the deal is violated those engaging with the strike should make sure they understand the potential consequences.”
If union members covered under a contract with a “no strike clause” that specifically prohibits striking during the term of the contract do, in fact, go out on strike, it is often referred to as a “wildcat strike” and those participating in the strike can be lawfully fired from their jobs.
Moreover, when a union has members engage in a wildcat strike without the union’s consent, it is usually imperative that the union work to get its members back to work, lest the union be sued for damages by the struck employer.
On the other hand, for union-free employees, their actions may actually be protected as “concerted activity” under Section 7 of the NLRA.
However, employees should not presume going out on strike for the #ADayWithoutAWoman is without risk.
Last month, more than 100 workers were fired across the country when they participated in the nationwide #ADayWithoutImmigrants protests.
While it remains unknown whether any of the fired workers have gotten their jobs back as yet or whether any have filed any charges with any of the appropriate agencies, would-be strikers should be cautious before abandoning their jobs for political protests.