No-Strike No-Lockout Clause: Wise or Not?

BY PETER N. KIRSTEIN

Our Collective Bargaining Agreement at a private Catholic institution has a no-strike-no-lockout clause:

ARTICLE 6: NO STRIKE, NO LOCKOUT Neither the Union nor any member of the bargaining unit shall, during the term of this Agreement, instigate, engage in, support, encourage, or condone any strike, work stoppage, other concerted refusal to perform work, or other action interfering with the operation of the University. In the event that a strike occurs, the Union shall immediately notify the involved member(s) that they are in violation of this Agreement and shall instruct them to cease the strike and to resume their duties during the term of this Agreement. Neither the University nor any member of the Administration shall, during the term of this Agreement, instigate, engage in, support, encourage, or condone any lockout. In the event that a lockout occurs, the University shall immediately notify the involved administrator(s) to cease the activity and to correct the situation.

I always chafed at this because I felt it was a gratuitous, pusillanimous surrendering of the ultimate proletarian weapon for a “never-to-be-invoked” bourgeois response. How could a university, I argued, ever lockout the professoriate? I mean would they go down the street and recruit folks to teach nursing, biochemistry or nuclear history? Where would the scab labour come from?

Now I wonder if labour contracts between faculty and their college/university should contain this dual prohibition? Surrendering the right to walk is a serious and dramatic decision for a faculty union. Witnessing the L.I.U. lockout and the war on faculty generally across the United States suggests, however, it might be judicious for a faculty union to examine whether a no-strike–no-lockout clause is prudent. It would prevent a doomsday scenario when a union-busting administration, seeking to obtain total dominance in disempowering the professoriate, closes the university, yet continues to receive their six or seven-figure salaries and other perks.

3 thoughts on “No-Strike No-Lockout Clause: Wise or Not?

  1. A No-strike clause is never a god idea for a union. Unions have one fundamental power: the power to withdraw their labor. Signing a no-strike clause means disempowering the union for the duration of the contract. Once that clause is in, however, it is often difficult to remove. It should be attempted. It’s a disaster. (and a frequent one).

    I predict there may be some who insist that a no-strike clause is acceptable, and will then offer many anecdotal or personal stories of how some institutions have set up different methods or committees to deal with employer-employee conflicts. Look at these closely, and imagine how the power dynamic in each of the cases mentioned would have changed, had the power of a striking union been sitting in the room. The lack of conflict is not the same thing as a union that fights and wins improvements for its workers.

    Good luck to you.

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