Student Writing Competition Runner-Up Article: The Straight Jacket on Federal Employees’ Right to Strike
By Luis Virgen
Luis Virgen is a third-year law student at Southwestern Law School and the runner-up to the 2019 Student Writing Competition of the Public Law Section.
Imagine you are a hard-working federal employee, and the sole provider for your family. You work hard pay your bills, but suddenly, there is a government shutdown. Your employer has deemed your services essential and tells you to come to work, but informs you that you will not be receiving your biweekly paychecks. Although you will eventually receive backpay when the government returns to full operation, that backpay will be split into multiple future paychecks. You know that if you resort to taking out a high-interest loans, borrowing against your retirement accounts, or incurring financial penalties for your missed bills during the shutdown, that backpay would not return you to the same financial position you were in before the shutdown. With your bills looming, what can you do?
According to Black’s Law Dictionary, a strike is "an organized cessation or slowdown of work by employees to compel the employer to meet the employees’ demand; a concerted refusal by employees to work for their employer, or to work at their customary rate of speed, until the employer grants the concessions that they seek."1 Historically, the primary reason to go on strike has been to "over awe or intimidate [an employer] by mere force of numbers," as individual actions by employees have had little to no effect.2