The Right to Strike: Policies, Ethics, and Labor Unions

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From an ethical point of view, the debate over whether public employees have the right to strike centers on the political and philosophical differences between 'conservatives' and 'liberals' or progressives in American society. Classical liberals ('conservatives'), with their ethics based on the concepts of John Locke and Adam Smith, assert that the social contract between the people and the state protects the individual rights of life, liberty and property, but beyond that autonomous individuals should be left to pursue their own interests with minimal interference from the state of society. For this reason, they would deny the right of collective organizations like unions to control personal autonomy and free choice, and insist that all persons are ultimately egotistical and self-interested. On the other hand, 'liberals' (progressives and social democrats) would argue that human beings are basically social and cooperative rather than egotistical and competitive, and that they have the right to organize and bargain collectively to pursue their group or class interests. They favor a broader social contract that includes group rights, economic rights, protection of minorities and the welfare state, and believe that social justice and fairness requires labor unions to balance against the power of employers and their influence on the political process. Labor unions, including those in the public sector, are among the largest contributors to the Democratic Party while the

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