* John Terranova at CMS’ Office of Labor Relations just sent an e-mail to state employees about AFSCME’s decision to hold a strike authorization vote later this month. From his e-mail…
Although it is your right to engage in a lawful strike, it is my hope that a strike will be averted. That said, employees should at the very least have the necessary information to make an informed decision about whether to go on strike. We will prepare a more comprehensive document, but in the meantime, please see the information below as you prepare to make this consequential decision.
* From his dot points…
What are the consequences of a strike?
The most obvious and immediate consequence of a strike would be that striking employees’ wages would stop and they would be responsible for the full cost of their health insurance - their portion and the State’s portion. For the average state employee, the cost of a one-month strike would be over $8,000 in lost wages, pension, and additional health insurance expense. Beyond that immediate effect, there could be many other consequences. If the strike is unlawful, employees can be terminated for striking. The previous tolling agreement between the State and AFSCME had a “no strike, no lockout” clause, making a strike under the tolling agreement illegal unless impasse was reached and AFSCME has denied that the parties are at an impasse but nevertheless now calls for a strike vote. The State will vigorously pursue all lawful means at its disposal for challenging an unlawful strike.
Even if a strike by AFSCME is determined to be legal, employees may be replaced. Unless an unfair labor practice caused the strike, striking employees may not automatically have the right to have their job back at the end of the strike. They would only have the right to vacancies IF they were qualified and IF one exists.
What will the State’s response to a strike be?
The State will call on whatever resources it needs, from private vendors, other states, local governments, and other state resources to maintain services. While the State would prefer to continue to utilize its regular workforce, the State’s duty to continue to provide services does not stop simply because AFSCME chooses to go on strike. In light of AFSCME’s repeated threats to go on strike, the State has had extensive conversations with outside resources who are willing to step up in the event of a strike. Additionally, the State’s procurement laws contain an exception that allows the State to immediately engage outside vendors in the event of an emergency such as a strike. In sum, the State is prepared to continue delivering critical services to its citizens with or without employees who choose to go out on the picket line.