The right to strike has been a vital part of the labor movement for over 100 years. Many feel that the right to strike evens the power balance between employers and workers, giving workers the leverage they need to deal with employers as equals, and get fair treatment. Without the right to strike, workers’ living and working conditions would inevitably suffer.
Even though the right to strike is legally protected in most developed countries, exceptions to this right are also common, especially for occupations that provide “essential services.” What actually constitutes “essential services” depends on many factors, but usually applies when withholding the service would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population. As providers of essential services, police, firefighters, and air traffic controllers often don’t have the right to strike. In the US, many states and cities also hold the position that “mass transportation workers” provide essential services and thus ban them from striking.
Currently, BART workers have the right to strike, but should they? Those in favor of keeping this right argue that mass transportation is not even close to being an essential service in the way that police work or firefighting is. Without the threat of a strike, BART management would have too much power at the negotiating table and workers’ demands and grievances would be increasingly ignored.
Others argue that BART workers should not have the right to strike, because BART provides an essential service in the Bay Area and a BART strike would have devastating consequences. The Bay Area Council Economic Institute said lost productivity alone reached $73 million a day in July’s strike, but that this figure would steadily increase each day of a strike, as the region “reels from the loss of its most critical mass transit system.” Countless individuals, families and businesses would suffer and tax revenue would take a huge hit.
So, what do you think? Should BART workers keep the right to strike? Join us at the next SFDebate to explore and debate this Motion. Note that there is a $5 fee charged by the Commonwealth club for non-members to the club.
If you are interested in being a moderator for this Motion, just email event organizer -Deborah – and let her know.