Employee Rights to Strike and Picket

The NLRA not only guarantees the right of employees to strike, but also places limitations and qualifications on how employees exercise that right. For example, restrictions exist against “secondary strikes” and strikes against health care institutions.

The lawfulness of a strike may depend on the object or purpose of the strike, its timing or the conduct of the strikers. The object(s) of a strike and whether they are lawful are matters not always easy to determine. The status is critical to both striking employees and employers facing a strike because it determines rights to reinstatement and back pay.

Strikes for a lawful object fall into two classes:

  • Economic
  • Unfair labor practices

Both classes of strikers retain employee status, but unfair labor practice strikers have greater rights of reinstatement to their jobs.

See “Striking or Picketing a Health Care Institution Without Notice” in Unfair Labor Practices of Unions.​​​

  • Economic Strike Defined

    Economic Strike DefinedIf the object of a strike is to obtain economic concessions, such as higher wages, shorter hours or better working conditions from the employer, the employees strike for economic reasons.  More »

  • Unfair Labor Practice Strike Defined

    Unfair Labor Practice Strike DefinedEmployees who strike to protest an unfair labor practice committed by their employer are called unfair labor practice strikers.   More »

  • Strikes Unlawful Because of Purpose

    Strikes Unlawful Because of PurposeA strike may be unlawful because an object or purpose of the strike is unlawful.  More »

  • Unlawful Strike in Violation of No-Strike Provision

    Unlawful Strike in Violation of No-Strike ProvisionA strike that violates a no-strike provision of a contract is not protected by the NLRA.  More »

  • Misconduct of Strikers

    Misconduct of StrikersStrikers who engage in serious misconduct in the course of a strike may be refused reinstatement to their former jobs.   More »

  • The Right to Picket

    The Right to PicketAs with the right to strike, picketing can be prohibited because of its object, timing or misconduct on the picket line. ​  More »

  • Union Picketing on Private Property

    Union Picketing on Private PropertyIn December 2012, the California Supreme Court decided an important case relating to union picketing on private property.  More »