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A system for safe strikes.

AMERICANS WERE SHOCKED BY the violence resulting from the labor dispute at the New York Daily News, the nation's largest newspaper in circulation, and the strike by the private sanitation and carting workers' union. Fire-bombings and arson, aggravated assaults, and physical and verbal abuse committed by workers on strike revealed the inability of the police and security forces to contain violence and maintain peace. Consider the following:

New York Daily News:

* Sixty-six people were injured as a result of attacks by striking workers.

* One hundred forty-seven delivery trucks and public transportation buses were damaged by strikers.

* A grocery store in Queens, NY, was fire-bombed because the owner dared sell the Daily News.

Sanitation Workers' Union:

* Nonunion trucks were attacked, burned, and smashed, and the occupants were beaten by union members.

* In New Jersey, a privately owned sanitation truck was fire-bombed by eight people wearing ski masks.

* In the Bronx, NY, three Molotov cocktails were hurled at a garbage truck.

As the United States enters an era of economic uncertainty, one point is certain: Labor disputes and strikes will occur, bringing with them a new potential for violence. Training and educating police officers and security officers on how to deal with and contain labor strikes have never been more important.

The primary goal of striking workers is to hamper or stop a company's production or services.

Another goal is to use the strike as a public relations tool. Strikers and their leaders strive to gain public support and portray management in a bad light.

A poorly trained security force and an unprepared police force may cause more harm than good. Officers who are properly prepared may be able to maintain order and protect life and property, even during the heated moments of a strike.

The duties of police and security officers on the scene are to protect life and property, gather evidence to be used later for prosecution, and assume leadership in emergency situations.

In all three instances, public relations is a key issue. Police are usually called to the scene of a strike to prevent abuses by either side and assist the company's security force, which may be greatly outnumbered. Prevention is the key word in all strike-related operations.

The police and security officers must be careful not to contribute to a confrontation. In the highly emotional atmosphere of a strike, police and security officers should avoid doing or saying anything that may suggest to the strikers or picketers that they are lawbreakers.

Striking and picketing are not illegal. The right to strike and picket for higher wages, a better work environment, and more health care benefits has long been recognized and accepted.

The security director and police commander must make sure management understands that a labor strike is not a hostile attack on the company but an acceptable means to achieve negotiated gains for the workers.

However, because strikes are concerned with one of the most basic and emotional issues for workers--how much they will be compensated for their labor--emotions run high.

A slight misunderstanding on either side may escalate into mob violence and retaliation by both sides. Generally, violence occurs when a great deal of animosity exists between management and labor before the strike. Violence may be deliberately encouraged as a weapon itself or to justify the use of force by the strikers. A single incident may cause a sudden eruption of violence.

Adequate security measures during a strike require that all members of the police and security force be thoroughly aware of what a strike involves. Familiarity with the objectives of both labor and management is paramount to the success of the peacekeeping.

IN APPLYING PRESSURE ON MANAGEMENT, striking workers will attempt to hinder normal functioning of the company in one or more of the following ways:

* All workers may walk off the job.

* Workers may picket the facility. Picketing--especially in large numbers--gains the attention of the media. Nonunion workers may also become intimidated or sympathetic and refuse to cross the picket line, which further hampers facility operations. Picketing is also useful in preventing raw materials from entering and finished products from leaving the facility.

* Harassment, verbal abuse, threats of violence, trespassing, sabotage, and sometimes physical violence may be used. Striking workers may physically attack workers who are not on strike or replacement workers in an effort to deter them from entering the facility.

Violence and the threat of violence by striking workers are illegal acts, and police and security personnel must be alert to this harassment.

Local or state law enforcement agencies will be involved during a labor strike. Their role is to protect the lives, property, and the civil rights of everyone involved.

While the police perform a great service for the company, they must remain neutral in spite of personal feelings. Usually public law enforcement officers are spread too thin to contain a sudden outbreak of violence effectively without waiting for reinforcements; so the bulk of responsibility for protecting company property rests on the internal security force or a contracted private police agency hired specifically for the strike.

The entire security force should be organized into a well-defined chain of command. All individuals must be aware of what their duties are, over whom they exercise authority, and to whom they are directly responsible.

Before the start of the operation, a command post should be set up and include portable radios, telephones, and a public address system. As in most activities, being prepared in advance is more than half the battle. The director of security should develop a detailed and flexible plan of action with top management when the possibility of a strike arises.

The security chief director should also consult with the police commander. Such communication helps define the roles of police officers and security officers, though during a violent confrontation such distinctions may become blurred.

All members of the security force should have thorough knowledge of the plan of action or at least the parts that pertain directly to their specific jobs.

An adequate strike plan should include an estimate of the security force needed. Although no set rules for an evaluation exist, factors such as the value of the company property to be protected, the size of the physical plant, the potential for violence by the strikers, and the number of employees who will need protection to cross the picket line should be considered. It may become necessary to supplement the in-house force with officers from a contract security firm.

Security personnel must be aware of their jurisdictional rights and restrictions on and off company property. The company's security officers should confine their activities to the facility itself, such as directing traffic, protecting sensitive locations, preventing trespassers, and providing protection against sabotage. The exterior picketing zone, entrances, and access routes are the responsibility of the law enforcement personnel.

In certain instances, especially when protecting companies that are involved in trucking, security officers may have to provide motor vehicle escorts. Instances may arise where security personnel may need to be sworn-in as peace officers or deputized but still possess only limited police powers.

Police and security officers should be warned not to have contact with strikers. Setting up a buffer zone enhances security and safety for everyone. This strategy also provides an opportunity to identify and detain trespassers.

Side arms should not be displayed openly by security officers. The sight of armed officers may antagonize strikers and cause a confrontation. If mob violence ensues, the chance exists that an officer can be disarmed. An angry mob is dangerous enough without a loaded firearm in its midst.

Should the situation warrant, the security gun custodian can dispense weapons to the officers. The best weapons, however, are nonlethal, such as police batons and mace.

Effective communication is of the utmost importance. This includes interagency communications capabilities between the police and the security forces.

If possible, police and security training should call attention to the rights and interests of both parties. Criminal and civil law should be addressed, as well as the duties and limitations of local law enforcement agencies and the legal limitations of the company's own security force or contract guard agency.

Special consideration should be given to the need for restraint and the guidelines for the use of physical force.

IF THE COMPANY THINKS A STRIKE IS likely and the police are notified in advance, ample time will be available for police intelligence gathering as well as for formulating a plan.

Information to be gathered by police and security investigators includes:

Nature of the disagreement

* economic

* improper conduct of one of the parties

* sympathy strike in support of another union

Nature of the targeted business

* number of plant or business locations

* product manufactured or nature of business

* transportation security plans

* total number of employees and an estimate of those who will not strike

* attitude of employers toward workers, unions, and strikes

* physical plans, locations, diagrams, schematics, and floor plans

Union information

* identification of local, district, regional, and national union leaders

* union characteristics, such as the history of other labor disputes

* character of leaders and members

* equipment likely to be used, such as a PA system, or sound trucks

* number of pickets expected

* names of picket line captains

* tactics employed in previous strikes (marches, motorcades, harassment, threats, violence, sabotage, arson)

* financial arrangements provided for strikers by the union (food, housing, remuneration for picket)

* character of union members (skill, seniority, wage level, average education level)

Union and management relations

* history and character of recent relations--strained or amicable

* existence and severity of alleged wrongdoing on both sides

* outside influences: groups or individuals who would benefit from a prolonged and violent strike--their structure, leadership, goals, tactics, and power

The police commander assigned to handle the strike should meet with company representatives, such as the personnel director, the director of maintenance, the director of security, and others with needed expertise.

The commander may also want to meet with union leadership. Established and agreed ground rules should be in place.

Both sides of the dispute should understand the following:

* Boundary lines will be respected by both company security and the picketing strikers.

* Force and violence will not be tolerated.

* Law enforcement will enforce the law with utter impartiality.

* Deliberate attempts to create civil disorder will not be tolerated.

* Striking workers found inside company premises will be considered trespassers, since technically they are not employees while they are on strike.

* The use of outside agitators, thugs, bullies, and "ringers" (professional strikers) will not be tolerated.

* Both sides will do their best to prevent obscene or abusive language and gestures.

* The right of strikers to engage in orderly picketing will be guaranteed by the police and company security.

* The number of pickets to be used should be agreed on in advance and adhered to by the union.

No two strikes are exactly the same and, therefore, police commanders and security directors must remain flexible in their thinking and decision making. The most important point for security officers to remember is that they are not protecting a company from vicious criminals but guarding it against possible damage done in a fit of passion.

James J. Kouri, CPP, is chief of security and safety for the New York Hall of Science in Corona, NY.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Kouri, James J.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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