I'm particularly interested in the context of current WGA/SAG-AFTRA strike in the US, but this is a general question. If some business amid a union strike would terminate its agreement with a union, can it lay off the striking union members and hire non-union workers in their place? Are there any legal reasons they can't do that?

  • Union contracts generally block strikes in their terms. The WGA/SAG-AFTRA and potential UPS strike are because the contracts have expired and negotiations for a new contract have failed. Therefore, the employers aren't subject to union agreements at this point.
    – user71659
    Jul 23 at 3:18

2 Answers 2


It depends on the nature of the strike. If a strike is "protected" (allowed under the NLRA), you cannot be fired but if the strike is illegal, you can be. If the strike is legal and was at least in part over an unfair labor practice, you must be immediately reinstated after the strike ends. If the strike is over economic issues, you might have been replaced with a permanent employee so you are placed on a preferential hiring list. However this right to reinstatement can be lost if you engage in serious misconduct in connection with the strike or picketing.

  • 2
    Just to be clear, the National Labor Relations Act is the law that governs almost all private sector union-management relationships in the U.S. (except for a few in the interstate transportation industry).
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 23 at 22:31

A business cannot unilaterally terminate a collective bargaining agreement (the "Contract"), nor terminate a union's representation of its members.

A business may hire non-union employees to work during a work stoppage ("strike"), or may have exempt (management) employees perform the duties of the striking employees. The union employees must be re-hired after a legal strike is over. Caterpillar famously employed these tactics during a 17 month strike in the 1990s that was disastrous to the striking workers, who were forced to agree to significant concessions to end the strike.

  • Which particular legal norms forbid unilaterally terminating labor agreement or unilaterally terminating contract with the union? Are these some NLRA clauses? Jul 26 at 18:36
  • @ambidexter2017 I assume it's NLRA, this is base level management training when dealing with unions in the US, which I have done.
    – Tiger Guy
    Jul 26 at 20:51

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