Can just one non-union individual go on strike?
October 20, 2010 2:17 PM   Subscribe

Can just one non-union individual go on strike?

I'm being treated unfairly by my employer (although, most likely not for an actionable cause). My pay grade is far lower than other people in similar positions. HR admit this and will start going through the process of my job being regarded sometime in the middle of November. My current boss (a VP) claims he has absolutely no money to pay me more and if my job is "re-graded," they will likely re-write my job description so that it encompasses fewer and easier tasks.

Currently, there are two open positions between the VP and myself. I applied for the position directly above me. The VP said he wants to hire the position directly under him before making a decision on the job for which I applied and estimates this will take at least a month.

In the meantime, I am working part time. I want to be full time. The position I applied for makes 3 times as much as I currently make (and I have all the experience and skills required for the position).

Since July I have been doing both my job and the position above me in 26 hours a week. Until this week, I have been able to keep up (although grudgingly because I feel like I'm being treated unfairly). This week, I was handed a major project that will take me at least a month to complete since I am part time and have many other duties besides this project. The process would go much faster if two people were working on it.

The project involves using a proprietary software package. I am the only one in the company with thorough knowledge of this software (and will likely be asked to train my new boss, which I have already decided I will not do). If I left now, the project would likely not get done this year. However, my department desperately wants the project finished well before the end of the year since they hope it will give a big boost to our end-of-year revenue. Not getting the project done, would mean trouble for the upper managers in my department. It would also mean that everyone in my department will receive lower bonuses, including me (although mine is meager compared to everyone else's, so I can stand to get a lower bonus).

In light of all of this, I am considering going on strike. I want to be paid fairly. There is a chance that I might get the position for which I applied, but it seems unlikely because my boss (who interviewed me still plans to wait a month and by my reasoning, he would have just picked me if he wanted me for that position).

Does anyone have any suggestions on what I can do in this situation? Is it possible to go on strike? I am in a position of relative power here despite being just one employee. Any advice would be helpful. I'm also looking for advice on how to handle the emotional aspects of being treated unfairly (I'm being treated unfairly in several areas, but for the sake of space, I just mentioned the salary issue).
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (16 answers total)
Why not just quit?
posted by downing street memo at 2:19 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sure, you can go on strike. But nothing stops them from firing you. Nothing stops anyone from getting fired in a strike. The reason it works is because so many people stop working, it would be hard to fire all of them and retrain new people.
posted by ShootTheMoon at 2:20 PM on October 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

If you want a promotion it is best not to have the person likely to be making the decision think you are going to be a pain in the arse, which they must certainly will if you start talking about going on strike.
posted by biffa at 2:21 PM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Striking will not get you what you want.

I think you would be far better served to start looking for another job.
posted by Zophi at 2:23 PM on October 20, 2010 [5 favorites]

If you do this you risk getting fired. And if they don't fire you, you've almost certainly irreparably damaged your relationship with your employer. I really would sit tight and be patient. It sounds like they're willing to work with you, just not on your schedule. When it comes to dealing with a corporation, that's pretty common.

If you are unhappy enough to consider risking your job in this way, you should probably be looking for employment elsewhere.
posted by something something at 2:23 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

This sounds like a good time for an ultimatum, if you can afford to quit (dont quit on a whim though, you need a backup plan if they don't give in). Sometimes you have to break out the PowerTalk. Tell your boss (or his boss) what you said here and demand action, or walk.

Why not apply for the next job up?
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:24 PM on October 20, 2010

Yeah, "strike" is the wrong term. You want to leverage more money from your employers by subtly pointing out that you could do better elsewhere, and they'd be up shit creek without you.

A strike is temporarily quitting. In your position, I doubt it would accomplish what you want, at least not as well as going into some high-pressure, high-stakes negotiations with your bosses.
posted by supercres at 2:25 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

A strike needs leverage. With unions, you leverage the power of numbers: they can't fire everyone.

So, what's your leverage? Do you think you can hold your knowledge of the software hostage against a pay raise? Unless you have some amazing qualifications, you probably can't. If you try to give your boss an ultimatum, he'll probably just fire you and hire someone who will toe the company line. It'll cost him more to train someone in the short term, but he'll probably figure he's saving himself a lot of hassle in the long term by getting rid of a troublemaker.

So, keep your mouth shut, do your job well, and start applying to other jobs you'll be happier at.

(on preview, what everyone else said)
posted by auto-correct at 2:26 PM on October 20, 2010

You don't say where you are in the world, but strikes have legal status that depends on at least: your jurisdiction, the industry you work in, and the union. Depending on all these, that legal status can affect (1) their ability to fire you (2) your entitlement to unemployment benefits if they do. You need to talk to an employment lawyer.

Before you bother though, think: if this project didn't happen this year, would anyone really care? Would it affect the business's ability to continue operating as they currently are? If not, you are wasting your time, costing yourself money, and ruining your relationship with an employer for whom, in your best case scenario, you will still work. Seems dumb.
posted by caek at 2:27 PM on October 20, 2010

In my jurisdiction, only a union member can strike and/or work to rule. Here, a non-unionized person can't strike because it falls outside the legal definition. Where I am you would be deemed to have abandoned your job and would be terminated immediately for cause, meaning there would be no notice or severance pay required. But things might be different in your area.

I've been in a nasty, toxic, and unfair job situation. I took the actions offered up here: kept my mouth shut, did the job I was asked to do, and looked for -- and found -- another job.
posted by angiep at 2:57 PM on October 20, 2010

Find another job and use that as leverage. One person striking = one person getting fired.
posted by seventyfour at 3:15 PM on October 20, 2010

Yeah, what seventyfour said. The unfortunate reality is that, at a lot of companies, the best (or only) way to get a promotion or a significant raise is to have a better offer in hand. Otherwise you have no bargaining power. It's pretty messed up, but (speaking from experience) it's true.
posted by crosbyh at 3:46 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Going on strike, whether union sanctioned or this theoretical one-man strike, isn't just leaving the job. That's called quitting.

Striking is a strong-arm negotiation technique (ultimatum, really) where the workers gamble that their employers will cater to their demands rather than allow them all to quit. That's why unions are so picky about crossing picket lines and scabs and such: without solidarity, they have NO power.

So, a one-man strike = one man quitting, not getting fired. Strikers don't just walk off the job- what legal protections strikers get are in part because they agree to abide by certain rules as to how they go on strike. It's not a strike if they just leave one afternoon without warning.

Here is how you go on strike:

"Hi boss, how is that promotion coming? Not yet? Alright, if I don't get that promotion by Friday, I'm not coming in on Monday, or any day after that, until you make it work."
posted by gjc at 7:01 PM on October 20, 2010

(and will likely be asked to train my new boss, which I have already decided I will not do).

I'm curious how many times you've refused to do things your employer requires of you, and how that would correlate to your inability to get a promotion.
posted by Rendus at 9:57 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Start actively looking for another job and when you get an offer put in your two weeks notice. Obviously that will take some time so if you have the funds to live off while you are unemployed for awhile then take the plunge and do an "Office Space". Just show up when you feel like it or call in sick.
posted by JJ86 at 7:03 AM on October 21, 2010

1) Find another job.
2) Tell your workplace you've found another job.
3) Ask them what they're willing to do to keep you.

Also, I agree that you shouldn't have to be responsible for training people above you to work various software. I've refused to do that when asked, on the grounds that it didn't fall into my written job description.

Speaking of which, if you HAVE a written job description, you could follow it to the letter and refuse to do work outside of it. Not exactly a "strike" but it might illustrate all the extra work that you perform (if any). I've used this technique to get a raise as well (at a previous employer a LONG time ago), but it requires an understanding boss, who's okay with getting a little pissed off.
posted by coolguymichael at 9:41 AM on October 21, 2010

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