Magazine article Security Management

A System for Safe Strikes

Magazine article Security Management

A System for Safe Strikes

Article excerpt

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. …

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