Wildcat Strike

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Wildcat Strike

An employee work stoppage that is not authorized by the Labor Union to which the employees belong.

When employees join a union, they give the union the right to collectively bargain with their employers concerning the terms and conditions of work. Since the passage in 1932 of the Norris-Laguardia Act (29 U.S.C.A. § 101 et seq.), employees have had the right to strike for the purpose of demanding concessions from their employers. When employees go on strike without union authorization, however, their action is called a wildcat strike. Federal courts have held that wildcat strikes are illegal under the Wagner Act (National Labor Relations Act of 1935 [29 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq.]), and employees may be discharged by their employers for participating in wildcat strikes.

A wildcat strike brings into conflict sections 7 and 9(a) of the Wagner Act. Section 7 protects employees who bargain collectively and engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of Collective Bargaining. Section 9(a) states that representatives chosen for the purpose of collective bargaining shall be the exclusive representatives of all the employees in that bargaining unit. Because wildcat strikers engage in concerted activity without the authorization of their union, they appear to be both protected because of section 7 and unprotected because of section 9(a). The critical issue is whether the wildcat strikers should be protected to the same extent as strikers authorized by the union, or whether their activity is unprotected because of the exclusivity principle behind section 9(a).

The Supreme Court ruled in Emporium Capwell Co. v. Western Addition Community Organization, 420 U.S. 50, 95 S. Ct. 977, 43 L. Ed. 2d 12 (1975) that when wildcat strikers bargain separately, they are not protected by the Wagner Act. Most lower courts have applied Emporium Capwell broadly, holding that all wildcat strikers are unprotected. Therefore, even when wildcat strikers have not attempted to bargain separately, the majority rule is that the strike is unprotected activity.

Ordinarily a wildcat strike constitutes a violation of an existing collective bargaining contract, so the strikes are not protected unless the whole union joins them and ratifies the protest. The union may, however, discipline its members for participating in a wildcat strike and impose fines.

Cross-references

Labor Law; Wagner Act.

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As a staff attorney for the United Mine Workers during the wildcat strikes in the seventies, he found himself pleading with the court not to impose fines while simultaneously begging the strikers to go back to work.