Mrs. Bowen is a research consultant, International Association of Chiefs of Police. This article was partially prepared with funds supplied by the Labor-Management Services Administration, U.S. Department of Labor. The author is grateful to Cindy York and Arthur L. Heath for their assistance in preparing this document.
The logic that uninterrupted service takes precedence over the right to strike has had a strong influence on government policy regarding public employee bargaining. Strikes are strictly prohibited in the public safety services as well as in most other areas of government in the United States. The penchant for continuity of service is partially a vestigial expression of the antiquated political and philosophical concept that a strike by public employees is tantamount to mutiny against the sovereign authority of government. More importantly, strike prohibition is also a practical response to the labor intensive, largely nonsubstitutable, and, especially in the case of police and fire fighters, an essential nature of government services.
Many policy makers have also recognized that neither no-strike legislation nor harsh penalties for striking are sufficient, in themselves, to insure labor peace in the public sector. Unions in government have demanded that impasse procedures be established and have even struck to achieve this goal.' The emergence of collective bargaining in many areas of public employment has meant, therefore, that procedures other than the strike have had to be devised for resolving labor disputes.