General Question

ccatron's avatar

How does a writers strike work?

Asked by ccatron (2073points) January 2nd, 2008

I’m totally lost here. I know why they are striking and agree that they should probably make more money. But….Do the writers get to keep their jobs even though they’re not doing their job? I’m not part of a Union, but if I’m dissatisfied about my job and I don’t show up, they fire me or I find a new job. Why can’t the shows just hire new people? I’m sure there are writers out there who don’t have jobs and would love to work for Leno or any of these other shows no matter how much money they make. This brings up another question, do these writers get paid while they are striking? Please forgive my ignorance, but this just doesn’t make since to me.

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3 Answers

soundedfury's avatar

In general, an industry enters an agreement with a union that represents workers in that field. Part of that agreement outlines the negotiation of grievances. Should those avenues of negotiation breakdown, a union could vote to strike.

When they strike, they do not get paid, although some unions may have saved away money to pay union members during strikes.

Whether it is legal to fire striking employees depends on the circumstances behind the strike. Most strikes occur because contract negotiations have broken down long after the contract has expired. In this situation, a company could freely fire the employees (since they are working without a contract). In a situation in which the union is striking because they feel the company has done something unfair or is not living up to the contract, they may be legally enjoined from firing the workers (depends on the contract).

The problem is that it may not be a viable option to fire that many employees at once, depending on skill level. The cost of a shutdown of business during a strike may be preferrable to hiring, training and integrating new employees. In some fields, and I’d guess that the writer’s strike may fit the bill, it would never be a viable option due to the nature of the work.

Either way, firing striking workers has been seen as public relations nightmare and often backfires in the post-industrial economy.

The National Labor Relations Act broadly permits strikes with exceptions – airline and railway employees are only permitted to strike except within narrow parameters and federal employees waive their right to strike (Reagan fired air traffic controllers in the 80s due to an illegal strike). There is also a clause that bans strikes that would create a national emergency.

This is from a national sense (and only U.S. law). States are free to create additional categorization of workers who can and cannot strike. In many states, teachers, firefighters and police officers are prohibited from striking – although they will often organize union-wide sick days to skirt the law.

ironhiway's avatar

In the writers strike, I believe some of the new methods to distribute their have been left out in regards to pay. Writers are paid each time the show airs. They feel that their employers may find ways to reduce their pay through alternate means of distribution.

Personally I went on strike March 2 1990 at Greyhound, We got like $50 a week to show up and picket. And arrangements were made to help those with families, to get food. Like most of the rest of the drivers I got other jobs driving busses for someone else when the strike started. The Union won an NLRB unfair labor act and years later I received in several payments over a few years back pay awards not what I would have made had I worked but several thousand dollars. After the strike ended I had a choice to remain on furlough so I did since I had already acquired a better job. In 2004 I had to choose to return to work or quit Greyhound had lost most of the charter work at my location so I chose to quit. There were several who did not fare so well.

Greyhound hired thousands of replacement drivers. The turn over was high and a year into the strike a large group of them filed a formal complaint over wage issues. In my opinion no one personally involved benefited from the strike on either side.

ccatron's avatar

thanks for your answers fellow flutherers.

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