What does it mean to strike?

A labor strike is when a union and its members withhold labor from the employer to force the company to agree to union bargaining demands. Strikes are often accompanied by picket lines and disruption. Strikers immediately lose their pay and compensation (stipends, etc.) and health insurance benefits. In Tennessee, strikers are generally not eligible to receive unemployment benefits. The process to call a strike is governed by the UAW Constitution. Only dues paying union members may vote to strike under the UAW Constitution. During a strike, a company may replace some or all strikers, sometimes permanently.

The UAW has said that strikes are “rare” and that we won’t go out on strike unless we vote to do so. So why should I be worried?

The UAW has gone on strike many times, involving thousands of workers. It is currently sharing its plan for “targeted” strikes this year at GM as part of a “strategy.” The UAW has taken 22,000 workers out on strike over the last ten years.

If the UAW calls a strike, will I still get my pay and benefits?

No, your pay and company-paid benefits stop once you go out on strike.  You would be entitled to COBRA benefits.  But you’ll have to pay the entire insurance premium, without the company’s contribution. Currently, the UAW’s “strike benefit” is just $250 a week for employees who are members of the union.  According to the UAW website, “strike assistance pay is available after the 15th day of the strike.” See the UAW’s strike FAQ.

If the UAW calls a strike, will I qualify for unemployment benefits?

Unlikely. Tennessee generally does not provide unemployment benefits for employees who engage in a strike. This is true even if the employee is personally against the strike.

If the UAW calls a strike, can I still continue to work?

Yes, you have the right to cross the picket line. However, if you are a UAW member, you are subject to fines and discipline under its rules. The UAW states the following on its website in regard to crossing a picket line: “All strike benefits cease immediately and appropriate action may be taken under the UAW Constitution.”  See the UAW’s strike FAQ.

If the UAW wins the election, will there be a strike?

There is no way to know for sure. Volkswagen sells its products in competition with other companies and must watch its costs. If Volkswagen says “no” to promises made by the UAW, there could very well be a strike. Volkswagen will bargain in good faith, but the law expressly provides we do not have to agree to any union demand.

If the UAW calls a strike, can I be replaced?

Yes. Under federal law, Volkswagen may hire new employees to permanently replace economic strikers. This means that if there is a permanent replacement in your job, you cannot have your job back just because the strike has ended.

Has the UAW been involved in any recent strikes?

Yes, on April 26, 2019, the UAW went on strike against Mercy Health St. Vincent Hospital in Toledo, Ohio where it represents 2,200 employees. The strike continues today. The UAW has also announced a plan of “targeted” strikes in support of GM contract negotiations later this year.