Today, nearly three-quarters of a million teachers, immigration officials, court workers, and other unionized civil servants in the United Kingdom are on a 24 hour strike. These workers are protesting harsh austerity policies by the right-wing British government that will ask poor and middle class Britons to sacrifice in the form of pension costs and pay cuts, but leave the rich largely untouched. Al Jazeera English interviewed some of the strikers and filed a video report about the action. Watch it:
The reason these workers can protest their government’s policies in this way is because most non-security public sector employees in the country have a robust right to strike. Unfortunately, labor laws in the United States are not nearly as permissive. In fact, according to United States Code: Title 5,7311, U.S. federal employees are actually not permitted to strike against the government:
An individual may not accept or hold a position in the Government of the United States or the government of the District of Columbia if he —
(1) advocates the overthrow of our constitutional form of government;
(2) is a member of an organization that he knows advocates the overthrow of our constitutional form of government; (3) participates in a strike, or asserts the right to strike, against the Government of the United States or the government of the District of Columbia; or
(4) is a member of an organization of employees of the Government of the United States or of individuals employed by the government of the District of Columbia that he knows asserts the right to strike against the Government of the United States or the government of the District of Columbia.
Additionally, in many parts of the United States, public employees who work for municipalities or states are also prohibited from striking. In states as diverse asWashington, New York, and Wisconsin there is a broad framework of laws that prohibits most strikes by most public employees.
Some British conservatives, fearing the rights that public employee unions have in their country, are already calling for changing the United Kingdom’s strike laws to make it more difficult for workers to exercise their power. It seems they would prefer their workers to be as relatively powerless as their American counterparts.