Strikes are the concerted cessation of work by employees in support of demands made upon their employer. Strikes are defined into two (2) categories: unfair labor practice strikes (ULP Strikes) and non-unfair labor practice strikes generally referred to as Economic Strikes.
Any concerted and sustained refusal by employees to perform the services for which they are hired for reasons related to unsolved economic issues of bargaining. If it’s not a ULP Strike, it’s deemed an Economic Strike.
Any refusal to work that was precipitated or lengthened by an unfair labor practice(s) caused or committed by the employer. Thus, an economic strike may become an unfair labor practice strike.
Strikes and Nurses
Aren’t strikes unprofessional? There seems to be a dilemma for many nurses that a choice exists between collective bargaining/unionizing and professionalism, as though the two were mutually exclusive – they’re not! The Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) has long recognized unionizing/collective bargaining as the effective and appropriate mechanism to improve the wages, hours and working conditions of nurses. It is a conduit to maintain a degree of control and a mechanism to positively impact professional practice.
What About the Patients?!
In 1974, when the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was expanded to include private sector non-profit health care institutions, provisions were established to ensure all efforts for settlement would be made and that health care facilities would have adequate notice to prepare for a strike, as well as potentially resolving the issues prior to a strike, thus, ensuring patient safety. Unions must provide the health care facility 10 days’ notice prior to striking.
Will My License to Practice Be Affected in Any Way?
No, the Board of Registration in Nursing has no policy or position with regard to nurses on strike.
The mandated 10-day notice to the health facility of the nurses’ intent to strike resolves the issue of patient abandonment.
Can I Be Fired for Striking?
No, you cannot be discharged for engaging in a lawful strike. The NLRA, under Section 7, recognizes strikes as a protected concerted activity of employees. Whether you are involved in an Economic or ULP Strike, you are still considered an employee.
Can I (My Job) Be Replaced by My Employer?
Yes and No. If you were involved in an Economic strike, yes, your employer can replace you with temporary or more importantly, permanent replacements.
If you were involved in a ULP strike, no, your employer cannot permanently replace you – though they can temporarily replace you.
Can I Get My Job Back When the Strike is Over?
Your reinstatement rights vary depending on the category of strike you were involved in (Economic or ULP) and what, if any, reinstatement rights were negotiated as part of a settlement between the Employer and the Union. This assumes you have been engaged in a lawful strike and acted in a law-abiding manner.
Upon conclusion of the strike, you have an absolute right to reinstatement, even if it means the employer has to discharge replacement employees.
If your employer has hired permanent replacements who fill your job(s), when you or your union representative applies unconditionally for reinstatement, you are not entitled to go back to work. You are, however, entitled to be recalled to jobs for which you were qualified when openings occur. The NLRB has ruled that strikers are entitled to recall rights (by seniority) provided they have not found substantially equivalent employment elsewhere and the employer is unable to establish legitimate and substantial reasons for not reinstating them. The employer must keep a list of names and addresses of strike employees to provide notification of job openings, even if it’s been some time since the strike concluded. If you are entitled, as described above, to reinstatement and the employer refuses, it is a violation of the NLRA – an Unfair Labor Practice.
Benefit Eligibility During Strikes
The NLRB allows employees to stop paying pre-paid premiums in preparation of and/or during a strike. (Although – premiums are often paid in advance, so insurance may be in place several weeks into a strike.) After this point, COBRA kicks in.
Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)
This provides terminated employees with eligibility to continue health insurance with their ex-employer at the group rate, plus administration fee, for a period of 18 months. Strikers are eligible under COBRA. (Also, if you are eligible for unemployment benefits, the Universal Access Bill now includes medical insurance as part of the benefits.) – Discussed further in subsequent section.
NLRB holds that disability pay cannot be discontinued if collecting at time of strike. (Disabled employees must be careful that extensive picketing may result in employer’s discontinuing payment on the basis that the employee is not longer disabled.)
If you ask for and were granted vacation pay during the time a strike is called or will be in effect, you are still entitled – even if you picket during your vacation. NLRB rules – employers cannot hold back vacation pay that is “due and payable” during a strike.
This must be paid if it’s based on service, i.e., 10 holidays after one year of service, etc., but if it requires working the days surrounding the holiday in order to be paid, strikers won’t qualify.
Under Massachusetts Law, strikers are entitled to unemployment benefits (which has medical insurance benefits now), unless the strike is deemed to have a substantial impact on production/services. Strikers are disqualified from unemployment benefits only when a strike is causing a stoppage of services. If operations have continued or if the employer is able to resume services (i.e., 80% of services provided), then there is no stoppage of services and strikers can collect unemployment benefits. Eligibility may be denied at the onset, but if production later resumes, the eligibility resumes.
If your employer gives you a permanent replacement letter, notice of going out of business or moving, then strikers are immediately eligible from the date of the announcement.
Who Decides If We Go On Strike?
You do, as members of a collective bargaining unit you would vote on whether or not to strike.
What Kind of Vote Is Required?
The MNA does not have a specific policy, preferring to leave those decisions to the local unit leadership. Generally, units have required the vast majority of members to vote to strike.
Does MNA Have a Strike Fund?
Yes, MNA has an Emergency Relief Fund. Strikes by members are eligible for funds. Individual units have also, when the need arose, developed their own strike funds. These individual funds are developed and guided by local unit leadership.
How Does a Strike End?
You decide when a strike is over. The bargaining unit, through the voting process, will decide how long the strike will last and when it ends.