What is an Official Strike?

Felicia Dye

An official strike is a labor protest that follows the regulations outlined for this type of action. In many cases, to be official, these actions must be initiated by labor unions and those groups must adhere to certain rules. Although the right to protest in this manner is recognized in many societies, official strikes do not generally allow participants leeway to break laws.

An official strike is a protest that follows the rules laid forth by both a labor union and existing labor laws.
An official strike is a protest that follows the rules laid forth by both a labor union and existing labor laws.

A strike is a group action that involves employees making the decision not to work until certain issues are heard or addressed. Disputes which incite this type of action commonly involve dissatisfaction with wages or working conditions. Most democratic societies recognize workers' rights to protest labor conditions they believe to be unfair. When this is done, however, there are generally certain rules that must be followed for the action to be considered an official strike.

Strikes are usually started to protest certain labor policies.
Strikes are usually started to protest certain labor policies.

The regulations which determine an official strike from an unofficial strike will greatly vary. In some places, a labor protest may not be considered official unless it is led by a labor union. Labor unions are composed of members who generally pay dues for the services and protection they receive. In return for the dues, the labor unions generally have the legal authority and obligation to address their members' concerns and act in their best interests when there are employee-employer disputes.

Since these groups are supposed to act on behalf of workers, actions taken without their direction may be seen as criminal. When this is the case, protesters may be subject to punishments such as fines or incarceration. In some jurisdictions, labor unions are required to conduct a poll and may only initiate an official strike if a majority of its members vote to do so. Otherwise, their actions could also be deemed illegal.

In most places, for this type of action to be recognized as official, an employer must be given notice. The amount of notice is usually outlined by law and can vary from one place to another. Employers are generally barred from taking retaliatory actions such as firing those who participate or downgrading their positions. In many instances, if an employee participates in an official strike, she will receive compensation.

All of the requirements of an official strike may not stem from legislation. In some instances, the execution of labor protests are defined by agreements that have been made between labor unions and employers. If labor unions protest in violation of terms they have agreed to, their actions are not likely to be considered an official strike.

It should also be noted that an official strike is limited by certain rules of civility. Striking workers are usually held accountable for any property damage they cause. Laws usually prohibit them from causing harm to anyone while they are engaged in protest. It is also generally necessary to adhere to public safety regulations, such as those pertaining to blocking entrances or barricading passageways. Adherence to certain regulations may be circumvented, however, if special permits are obtained.

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