So the NY Transit strike is still running or maybe its kind of over? Someone somewhere quoted by Asymmetrical Info suggested firing the lot of them and privatizing the system while they are about it. All I can say is could we have the same here please? I spent an excessive amount of time getting home recently thanks to the local SNCF scum being en grève again and therefore cancelling most Ventimiglia-Grasse services (looks like they decided to return to work (google translation) though just after I had spent hours in uncharming Ventimiglia). When you include the national strikes as well as the local ones I think SNCF has had not a single month in 2005 where it operated a full service unaffected by industrial action - if anyone in France can show me proof that I am incorrect I would welcome a correction.
It is interesting to compare the legal situation though. In France SNCF workers frequently get paid while they are on strike (or at least recive pay retrospectively) whereas in the US, strikes can be made illegal for certain workers. Majikthise links to a post by Dave Sirota that argues that laws banning strikes
undermine the entire concept of unions and workers' rights. Ask yourself a question: what is the one tool that ordinary, blue-collar workers have that can really help them assert economic power in a way that can minimally compete with the massive economic institutions (corporate/government) that run our society? The answer is ultimately through the threat of a strike – whether a strike happens or not. Without a union having the power to strike, they cannot threaten to strike and that means there is no real reason an employer should listen to any union requests, because the employer knows the union can't back up its requests with any consequences.
Despite my desire to fire the strikers I would tend to agree with that statement (although not much else written by Sirota). I believe that trades unions have generally outlived their usefulness in the west because most of the good they used to do has now been superceded by government laws or programs, but I see no point in banning them and I also believe that no company (or government) should have the right to ban trades unions from organizing or stopping its workers from withholding their labour.
However, although as I say you can I think persuasively argue that the US and UK are overly harsh on trades unions and strikes, it seems to me that is not in conflict with that statement to say that firing is a reasonable response to any actual strike. But note I do not say that all strikers should be fired, just that firing should be an allowable option. In France we see where the lack of consequences the other way hurts. French SNCF "workers" face an extremely limited downside to any insustrial action they take and therefore are willing to strike at the drop of a hat. The result is that firstly it is hard to tell when thay have genuine grievances (the "cry wolf" problem) and secondly it actually reduces the likelihood that management will offer a reasonable deal in the first place because they can assume that unless they capitulate utterly to the union requests there will be a strike so there is no point in trying to address any grievances.
The whole point about strikes are that they have a detrimental effect on the enterprises customers and hence on its future business thus a strike makes it clear to management that they need to fix things before all the customers go away. The reason why firing strikers should not be banned is that, in a normal enterprise, firing the strikers is not a cheap business as it will require a significant, possibly enterprise killing, amount of time and money to find and train replacements for the former strikers. This also leads on to why privatization is a good idea for the customers and workers too. Governments can afford costs like massive retraining or semi-permenant strikes driving away all the customers but private enterprises can't. It is worth noting that most strikes in France occur in the public sector, I suspect that is no coincidence...