Last week, the New Jersey Transit was able to come to a temporary agreement with its workers, narrowly preventing a strike that could have shut down all rail traffic going out of the state. Those who own businesses in New York as well as New Jersey no doubt breathed a collective sigh of relief, knowing that their employees would still be able to commute to work come Monday. However, the incident has brought the issue of strikes into public consciousness, and many business owners are wondering what they should do in the event of a New Jersey strike.
What is a Strike and How Can It Happen?
A strike is a legal way for workers to protest policies or decisions by their employer by temporarily stopping work. This does not apply to most businesses, because only unions, like those joined by the New Jersey rail workers, can organize a legal strike. However, most unions exist to protect the employee rights of workers in industries that are vital to the normal running process of the city (which is why strikes are usually so effective when they happen). If the New Jersey rail workers had gone on strike, it would have affected the majority of New York City and the surrounding areas, as well as their businesses.
A strike is only legal when it is organized in order to protest unfair practices, like low wages, paid and unpaid leave, insufficient benefits or discrimination against the unions themselves. The New Jersey rail workers threatened to strike because they had been working without an employment contract for nearly five years, and wanted wage and benefit increases as a result.
What Does a Business Have to Do If There is a Strike in the City?
One of the biggest questions concerning the averted New Jersey rail strike was how employees would get to work. Legally, an employee must come to work if he or she is able to do so. But if a strike like this happens in your city, causing your employees to be unable to physically get to work, you may have to get creative with your business practices. Employees should always be in communication with their businesses if something like a strike is preventing them from getting to the office. And good employers will find ways to help.
When something unexpected happens, like a strike in the city, business owners may find that they have to use their own discretion to keep operations going, and a good boss will be flexible and understanding. Allowing employees to work from home, if possible, would allow your business to continue to operate in the midst of another industry’s strike. Organizing carpools or letting your employees know that they will not be penalized for arriving late would also go a long way toward keeping your own workers happy and productive. In the absolute worst case scenario, where you would have to shut down your business for a few days because no one can get to it, you may want to consider allowing your employees to use a vacation or sick day so that they will be paid for those days when you literally could not work.
Our experienced New Jersey attorneys have represented thousands of clients in business law cases throughout the state.