Breaking an Impasse

Following these guidelines can minimize confusion:

1. Pay all striking employees what you (employer) owe them on the first day of the strike.

Secure the facility: Management should control access to the property. The company should consider hiring guards to protect replacements coming to and from work and to watch and control the picketers, if necessary.

2. Notify all customers, and prepare a standard official response to all queries.
3. Contact all suppliers and other persons who will have to cross the picket line. Establish alternative methods of obtaining supplies.
4. Make arrangements for overnight stay in the facility and for delivered meals in case the occasion warrants such action.

5. Notify the local employment office of need for replacement workers.

6. Photograph the facility before, during and after picketing. If necessary install videotape equipments and devices to monitor picket line misconduct.

7. Record all facts concerning strikers’ demeanor and activities and such incidents as violence, threats, mass pickets, property damage, or problems. Record the police response to requests for assistance.

8. Gather the following evidence: number of picketers and their names; time, date, and location of picketing; wording on every sign carried by pickets; and descriptions of picket cars and license numbers.

Other Alternatives: Management and labor each have other weapons they can use to try to break an impasse and achieve their aims. The union for example, may resort to a corporate campaign. A corporate campaign is an organized effort by the union that exerts pressure on the employer by pressuring the company’s other unions, shareholders, corporate directors, customers, creditors and government agencies, often directly. Thus the union might surprise individual members of the board of directors by picketing their homes and organizing a boycott of the companies’ banks.

The Web is another potent union tool. For example when the hotel employees and the restaurant employees union, Local 2, wanted to turn up the heat on San Francisco Marriott, it launched a new Website. The sight explains the unions eight months boycott and provides a helpful list of union-backed hotels where prospective guests can stay. It also lists organizations that decided to stay elsewhere in response to the boycott.

Inside games are another union tactic often used in conjunction with corporate campaigns: Inside games are union efforts to convince employees to impede or to disrupt production, for example, by slowing the work pace, refusing to work overtime, filing mass charges with government agencies, refusing to do work without receiving detailed instruction from supervisors, and engaging in other disrupt activities such as sick out. Inside games are basically strikes albeit “strikes” in which the employees are being supported by the company, which continues to pay them. In one inside games at caterpillar’s Illinois plant, United Auto Workers’ grievances in the final stage before arbitration rose from 22 to 336. The effect was to clog the grievances procedure and tie up workers and management in unproductive endeavors on company time.

For their part, employers can try to break an impasse with lockouts. A lockout is a refusal by the employer to provide opportunities to work. It (sometimes literally) locks out employees and prohibits them from doing their jobs (and getting paid). The NLRB generally does not view lockouts as an unfair labor practice. For example if your product is a perishable one (such as vegetable) then a lockout may be a legitimate tactic to neutralize or decrease union power. The NLRB views lockouts as an unfair labor practice only when the employer acts for a prohibited purpose. It is not a prohibited purpose to try to bring about a settlement on terms favorable to the employer

Lockouts are not widely used today; employers are usually reluctant to cease operations when employees are willing to continue working even though there may be an impasse at the bargaining table.