Strikes and Impasse Resolution in Public Employment

Experience indicates that in most instances the right to strike is not an essential part of the public employment collective bargaining process.18 Thus, the crucial issue is not really whether strikes should be permitted or prohibited in the public sector, but whether the collective bargaining process itself can be made so effective absent the right to strike that the need for work stoppages will be obviated. It is my conclusion that certain proven impasse resolution procedures–mediation, fact-finding, and in some cases, even arbitration–can be substituted for the strike weapon in public employment without substantial loss in the effectiveness of collective bargaining as it is known in the private sector. If this is in fact the case, it will be unnecessary for state legislatures to resolve the difficult policy dispute over whether public employees should be given the right to strike. Still, it may be useful to examine the arguments for and against the right to strike in public employment in order to evaluate the various proposals for making public sector collective bargaining orderly and effective.