You may have noticed that the price of gasoline has plummeted recently. Good news, right? Well, not if you’re the United Steelworkers (USW): The union just walked out on strike at nine oil industry facilities in Texas. The Houston Chronicle quotes an employment lawyer noting that USW’s strategy seems lacking:
The strike could be a way the union is sending a message to its members that it’s doing something proactive, said A. Kevin Troutman, an employment lawyer with Fisher & Phillips in Houston. But he questioned the timing.
“It’s not a great time for the union to strike,” Troutman said, referring to the recent and dramatic fall in oil prices. “Companies don’t have the money like they once did and are more likely to dig in their heels.”
While the struck oil companies (which include Shell, the firm leading the all-industry management negotiating team) expect to be able to maintain output, a protracted strike might hit consumers square in the pocketbook. Still, it could be worse:
Southwest Ambulance employees have authorized a strike if final negotiations between its union and Rural/Metro Corp. over employee benefits fail.
The local I-60 chapter of the International Fire Fighters Association, representing about 800 employees, voted in favor of having the strike as an option to settle the years-long dispute with its parent company over retirement benefits, longevity pay and overtime.
In short, an ambulance service employees union in Arizona has now formally issued a threat to strike, come what may to the sick. It’s one thing when union demands threaten your on-time flight arrival or risk an unexpected spike in fuel prices; striking against the public safety is another issue entirely (as politicians once recognized).
Big Labor’s decline in numbers and relevance has sent Richard Trumka and his fellow union bosses looking toward a militant past for a rebirth. They have stormed state capitols, struck against children’s educations, and demanded small businesses accede to their political agendas. While we haven’t heard about unions leaving the dead unburied yet, don’t be surprised if desperate bosses resort to desperate measures to rally their flagging numbers of dues-paying members.