Key Provisions of Collective Bargaining Agreements (Part 2)

Collective bargaining agreements contain many different clauses. This three part series covers what I believe to be among the most important clauses to any labor contract. In Part 1 I discussed the recogition clause, management rights clause, and dues check off clause. Today I cover the no strike / no lock out clause and the sympathy strike clause.

No Strike / No Lock Out Clause A no strike / no lock out clause is pretty straight forward. During the term of the collective bargaining agreement, the union agrees that it will not go on strike. In exchange, the employer agrees that it will not lock the union members out of the workplace. These clauses are intended to do one thing: avoid workplace shut downs. The hallmark of any no strike / no lock out clause is the inclusion of a grievance and arbitration procedure in the contract. Historically union disputes with management resulted in unions striking as a way to voice their opposition; the grievance and arbitration procedure along with a no strike / no lock out clause has eliminated mid-contract strikes while still providing an avenue for unions to voice their opposition to management.

Once a contract expires, however, the grievance and arbitration clauses terminate and unions are able to strike just as employers are free to lock out union members. Although lock outs after the expiration of a contract are legal, they must be completed with precision. Due to the number of restrictions placed on employers, companies that do not consult with legal counsel before locking out their employees are in grave danger of violating the law. Likewise, when unions strike, legal counsel must be consulted to limit the number of strikers, location of picketing, and selection of replacement workers among other critical aspects of surviving a strike.

Sympathy Strike:  A sympathy strike is when union members strike because the same union at a different workplace is on strike. For example, workers who are members of the UFCW in Cincinnati, Ohio who do not have a labor dispute strike because their “brothers” who are members of the UFCW in Columbus, Ohio are on strike because of a labor dispute. Most collective bargaining agreements contain the above no strike / no lock out clause. But certain language must be included in the collective bargaining agreement for employers to be able to stop these dangerous sympathy strikes. I am always amazed when I review collective bargaining agreements that do not prohibit sympathy strikes; make sure your contract isn’t one of them.

Stay tuned for Party III of Key Provisions of Collective Bargaining Agreements coming up next where I discuss subcontracting clauses and union security clauses.

Matt Austin is a Columbus, Ohio labor lawyer who owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. Matt can be reached by email at or by phone at 614.285.5342.