SH Sean Harding/blog
Striking workers and innocent bystanders
Thursday, February 27th, 2003

Erin at Yale brings up some interesting issues around how labor disputes affect people on the fringes of the dispute. Graduate students at Yale are preparing to strike, and in the process, they’re dragging every undergraduate into the debate.

Regardless of where I stand on a given issue, I usually think that actions with massive repercussions for uninvolved parties are a bad tactic. For example, I almost always side with teachers when they are in negotations. I fully believe that teachers in this country are underpaid and are very often forced to work in very bad conditions. I strongly support any effort to correct these problems. But I generally disagree with teacher strikes because they force so many innocent parties to be involved against their will. It’s not the students’ fault that teachers are underpaid. It’s not the parents’ fault if the contact isn’t fair. Yet these are the very people who are most damaged when teachers go on strike.

This is a difficult subject. On one hand, it’s unfair to inconvenience the students because of problems that are out of their control (and very often out of their realm of understanding as well). On the other hand, drastic measures are sometimes needed to effect change. If there’s a simple binary choice between having the workers be unfairly treated and having innocent bystanders drawn into the debate beause of a strike, which would I choose? I just can’t answer that question…

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