Your editorial (May 15) about the California Supreme Court decision recognizing the right of public employees to strike was both temperate and right on point. The conservative doom sayers are already all but predicting the imminent collapse of state and local government, so a preemptive blow for moderation and reason was much needed.
Most public workers in California have the right to bargain collectively with their employers to determine salaries, hours and working conditions, just as workers in the private sector do. Since the final decision on all the subjects in negotiation is typically left with the employer, the “bargaining” is virtually meaningless unless the employees also have some chips to play.
After a little reflection, it seems pretty obvious that the only chip of any real value held by the employees is the right to withhold services. Without the right to strike, collective bargaining is often a charade, where the employer simply goes through the motions of discussing proposals with employee representatives before announcing a predetermined and unilateral decision. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that frustrated public workers have taken to the sidewalks in so-called “illegal” strikes to protest and balance the process.
Experience in the private sector shows that the right to strike is an essential and integral part of the collective bargaining process that helped materially to bring labor peace and cooperation to private industry. So will it be with public employees.
In the meantime, those who would fire most of the Supreme Court and push the Legislature into repressive action against public employees should ask themselves at least one question: How does one denounce the removal of the strike right from public workers in Poland while denying that right to public workers in California? The answer, I think, is clear: hypocritically.