A wildcat strike action, often referred to as a wildcat strike, is a strike action undertaken by unionized workers without union leadership's authorization, support, or approval; this is sometimes termed an unofficial industrial action.
In 1965, Canada Post workers illegally walked out for two weeks and won the right to collective bargaining for all public sector employees. This resulted in them throwing out the leadership of the company union and forming the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
On March 23, 2012, Air Canada ground employees suddenly walked off the job at Toronto Pearson International Airport, resulting in many flight delays, after three workers were suspended for heckling Canadian Labour Minister Lisa Raitt. This followed months of fighting between Air Canada and its other unions.
United States of America
Wildcat strikes have been considered illegal in the United States since 1935. The 1932 Norris-La Guardia Act provided that clauses in labor contracts barring employees from joining unions were not enforceable, thus granting employees the right to unionize regardless of their workplace situation. Unions have the power to bargain collectively on behalf of their members and to call for strikes demanding concessions from employers. Under the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), federal courts have held that wildcat strikes are illegal and that employers may fire workers participating in them.
Nevertheless, US workers can formally request that the National Labor Relations Board end their association with their labor union, if they feel that the union is not adequately representing their interests. At this point, any strike action taken by the workers may be termed a wildcat strike, but there is no illegality involved, as there is no longer a conflict between sections 7 and 9(a) of the NLRA.
Some strikes that begin as wildcat actions, such as the Memphis Sanitation Strike and Baltimore municipal strike of 1974, are later supported by their respective unions' leadership (who then begin fulfilling their obligation to collectively bargain for their worker-members).
In 2018, West Virginia teachers went on strike to demand higher wages and affordable health coverage. Without the sustained sanction of union leadership, this strike became a wildcat strike. In 2018, similar wildcat strikes by teachers demanding better pay and school funding also occurred in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado, and Arizona.
In 2020, Graduate students at UCSC went on a wildcat strike to demand a cost of living adjustment (COLA) due to high rent burden in Santa Cruz county.
In Vietnam, all workers are required to join a union connected to the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor. Due to workers' distrust of this agency, nearly all strikes in the country are wildcat strikes.
Notable wildcat strikes
- Pullman Strike (Illinois, 1894)
- Putilov Factory Strike (Petrograd, Russia, 1917)
- Victorian Police strike (Australia, 1923)
- Memphis Sanitation Strike (Memphis, Tennessee, 1968)
- May '68 (France, 1968)
- Chrysler wildcat strike (Michigan, 1968)
- Strike against segregation and racism in Chicago Public Schools (Chicago 1968)
- UK miners' strike (1969)
- Strike for equal pay for female textile workers, Leeds and surrounding towns (UK). Inspiration for the film Leeds United
- Strike at Pilkington glass works in St. Helens, UK (1970) This was the inspiration for the film The Rank and File.
- US postal strike (1970)
- Winter of Discontent (UK, 1978–1979)
- Jeffboat wildcat strike (Indiana, 2001)
- Dhaka strikes (Bangladesh, 2006)
- Toronto Transit Commission wildcat strike (Canada, 2006)
- Freightliner wildcat strike (North Carolina, 2007)
- 2009 Lindsey Oil Refinery strikes
- Spanish air traffic controllers strike, 2010
- Marikana miners' strike (South Africa, 2012)
- Alberta Union of Provincial Employees 2013 Wildcat Strike
Although the 2018 West Virginia teachers' strike is sometimes referred to as a wildcat strike, labor unions called for a vote on authorization to take action in late January 2018. The vote passed. Labor leaders formally announced a statewide walkout beginning February 22, 2018. During the ensuing nine days of the walkout, all county superintendents throughout the state canceled school.
There are some cases where union recognition of a strike is complicated. For example, during the year-long British miners' strike of 1984-5, the national executive supported the strike but many area councils regarded the strike as unofficial, as most ballots at area level had produced majority votes against the strike and no ballot was ever taken at national level.
- "Canada's record on wildcat strikes – CBC News". cbc.ca.
- "Air Canada strike effects felt into weekend". cbc.ca. Mar 23, 2012. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
- "Wildcat Strike." In West's Encyclopedia of American Law. Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group, Inc, 2004. ISBN 0-7876-6367-0. Retrieved 11 January 2008.
- Eric Blanc (2018-03-01). "The Strike Is On". jacobinmag.com.
- Elk, Mike (2 April 2018). "Wave of teachers' wildcat strikes spreads to Oklahoma and Kentucky". the Guardian.
- https://foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/09/03/labor_day_in_hell?page=0,13 retrieved 6 September 2010. Archived September 9, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
- "Wages error sparked 1970 strike". St. Helens Reporter. England. 9 April 2014. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
- "Statewide strike of WV teachers this Thursday and Friday". WV MetroNews. February 17, 2018.
- "West Virginia Schools Closed As Teacher Walkout Enters Day 3". NPR.org.
- Amos, David (December 2011). "THE NOTTINGHAMSHIRE MINERS', THE UNION OF DEMOCRATIC MINEWORKERS AND THE 1984–85 MINERS STRIKE: SCABS OR SCAPEGOATS?" (PDF). University of Nottingham. pp. 292–295. Retrieved 29 December 2015.