From the Vault: February 7, 2000

KEASO settled its strike on February 2, after a six-day walkout. Details of the agreement were not released, but the staff ratified it by a 32-2 vote. Nevertheless, the strike appears to have helped make KEA’s collective bargaining bill dead on arrival in the state legislature.

Last week, EIA reported on a memo sent by KEA Executive Director Charlie Vice to the staff prior to the strike, answering “strike questions.” Many of the staff found the memo threatening. Well, EIA now has the text of the memo, and it is even more remarkable than rumors had expressed.

Vice’s memo, dated January 21, is in a question-and-answer format, and to the question, “Can I continue to work if I want to?” Vice replied, “You have a legal right to work and you are welcome.” His choice of words may have been more than coincidental. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation web-site contains a section entitled “Your Legal Rights.” It also is divided into the same question-and-answer format that Vice used, and there are a number of other similarities. Compare:

1)  Right to Work: “Under the National Labor Relations Act you have a right to strike as well as a right not to strike.”

Vice memo: “First, we want you to know that we recognize your legal right to strike or not to strike.”

2) Right to Work: “As a union member, you are bound by the union’s constitution and bylaws, which in most unions provide that members who work during a lawfully-called strike can be fined.”

Vice memo: “If you have signed up as a member of KEASO, and you come to work during a strike, KEASO may be able to fine or penalize you for working. That depends on KEASO’s by-laws.”

3) Right to Work: “Nonmembers are not subject to a union’s constitution and bylaws and cannot be fined or otherwise disciplined for working during a strike.”

Vice memo: “If you resign from KEASO, you would not be a member, and would no longer be subject to fines and penalties.”

4) Right to Work: “You may eventually have to prove when your resignation letter was received…” [various methods are then listed to get a proof of receipt]

Vice memo: “If you resign, it should be in writing, so you have a record.”

The Vice memo includes one other factor that even the Right to Work people don’t bring up: replacements. To the question, “Can KEA hire someone else to do the work I have been doing?” Vice replied, “Yes, KEA has the legal right to hire what are called ‘permanent replacements.’ ” Vice also adds, “At the end of the strike, striking employees have the right to return to their former position if it is open or vacant. If not, they would not return until an opening or vacancy in their former position arises.”