Take 10 – Strikes and Unions

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Introduction

Let’s look at a Yahoo News Article. Some excerpts are shown below.

CHICAGO (AP) Chicago teachers took to picket lines Friday in a one-day strike

The walkout has closed schools…

…teacher Brian Orlinsky, who said he hopes the walkout will be a wake-up call for… lawmakers.

…calling cuts to funding a “reckless disregard of children.”

The Chicago Teachers Union last went on strike in 2012…

“We are dying a death of a thousand cuts,” Teachers Union President Karen Lewis told striking teachers Friday morning.

…ordered teachers to take three furlough days.

…calls the action a “wildcat strike,”

The one-day walkout will culminate with a rush-hour gathering…downtown, where the union plans to close streets and disrupt traffic.

Vocabulary

  1. A strike is a type of official group protest in which a lot of workers all agree to NOT go to work one day. A strike may last for one day or many days. In the USA, some strikes are legal and some are illegal. For example, emergency services such as firefighters and police are NOT allowed to strike (or to go on strike). The people who go on strike are called strikers. Strikers are workers who are protesting against something their employer is doing to them. In this article, many teachers are protesting against the state government (their employer) for NOT providing enough money (funding) for the state’s education system (i.e., the public schools).
  2. A picket line is a line of strikers who block non-strikers from going to work (they share the same jobs). If a non-striker tries to cross the picket line to go to work anyway, the strikers will often get violent and physically stop that person from going to work.
  3. A walkout is the same thing as a strike. It refers to the fact the strikers “walk out” of their offices (or jobs) and refuse to work.
  4. A wake-up call is a metaphor that refers to an event that “wakes you up” and makes you aware of a serious problem that requires some action to be taken. This term comes from a hotel stay where you ask the front desk to give you a wake-up call in the morning. In the morning they will call you and make you aware that it is time for you to wake up (and become aware of the world around you).
  5. Reckless (adjective) means careless or doing something without regard for safety such that your actions may cause injury or harm to someone. For example, if you drive recklessly, you may hit another car with your car. If you climb recklessly, you may fall and hurt yourself.
  6. A union is a legal organization that represents a group of workers in dealing with the workers’ employer. It serves as a negotiating (bargaining) tool. For example, one state may allow teachers to unionize (to form a union). In this case, the teachers will each pay a membership fee to a union organization. That union will then bargain with the employer on behalf of the employees. Unions can be good (reasonable) or bad (unreasonable). My experience with unions leads me to believe they are mostly bad. They often make unrealistic demands on the employer and cause hatred between the employer and the employees. Unions will sometimes protect lazy employees from being fired. Unions are typically specific to a particular trade or job type; for example, there may be a plumbers’ union, a carpenters’ union, an electricians’ union, a pilots’ union, etc.
  7. Dying a death of a thousand cuts is an idiom that means to be defeated incrementally, little by little, gradually, or by degrees. A small cut will not kill you, nor will 5 cuts or 10 cuts, but 1000 cuts will cause you to bleed to death.
  8. A furlough is a mandatory, unpaid day off from work, usually due to the employer not having enough money to pay the employee for that day.
  9. A wildcat strike is one that is not approved by the union. Normally, the union approves and schedules a strike. Sometimes, some of the union members may disagree with the union’s desire to avoid a strike and may go on strike anyway. This is called a wildcat strike (as in uncontrolled or untamed).
  10. To culminate means to climax, to reach a final end, finale, or a conclusion.

Self-Assessment

  1. When workers are unhappy with their employer over a long period of time, they may form a _____. (type of organization)
  2. This organization will negotiate with the employer to improve the employees’ working conditions. If an agreement cannot be reached, this organization may schedule a _____. (type of demonstration)
  3. Once this demonstration begins, the _____ (people on strike) will form a _____ (barrier) to prevent _____ (people choosing not to strike) from going to work.
  4. The striking workers hope that their protest demonstration will serve as a _____ for their employer that action needs to be taken to address their concerns.
  5. Crossing a picket line can result in some angry employees acting _____. (in a dangerous manner)
  6. A _____ is another name for a strike.
  7. One of these protest demonstrations may _____ in an improvement in working conditions. In some cases, it may drive the company out of business if the demands are too unreasonable.
  8. If your employer runs out of money, he may ask you to take a couple of _____ days.
  9. If you cut my operating budget 5% a year for 10 years, I may die _____. (idiom)
  10. If a group of union members go on strike without the union’s permission, this type of strike is called a _____.

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Experience Sharing

Has you ever seen or experience a strike in your lifetime? If so, tell us about it.

One comment

    1. When workers are unhappy with their employer over a long period of time, they may form a union. (type of organization)
    2. This organization will negotiate with the employer to improve the employees’ working conditions. If an agreement cannot be reached, this organization may schedule a strike. (type of demonstration)
    3. Once this demonstration begins, the strikers (people on strike) will form a picket line (barrier) to prevent non-strikers (people choosing not to strike) from going to work.
    4. The striking workers hope that their protest demonstration will serve as a wake-up call for their employer that action needs to be taken to address their concerns.
    5. Crossing a picket line can result in some angry employees acting reckless. (in a dangerous manner)
    6. A protest is another name for a strike.
    7. One of these protest demonstrations may culminate in an improvement in working conditions. In some cases, it may drive the company out of business if the demands are too unreasonable.
    8. If your employer runs out of money, he may ask you to take a couple of furlough days.
    9. If you cut my operating budget 5% a year for 10 years, I may die a death of a thousand cuts. (idiom)
    10. If a group of union members go on strike without the union’s permission, this type of strike is called a wild-cat strike.

    Protests or strikes are common in our country nowadays since our democracy is still in its infancy. However I have personally encountered only a couple of strikes.

    Furloghes are also common among temporary workers who receive their pay day by day. Many small businesses do not have permanent laborers but hire day workers.

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