A year ago, wastewater treatment plant operators went on strike to protest deep cuts (81%) to Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department. A federal judge told them to return to work or face jail time. Was that fair?

YES 62%

  • Judges should be able to intervene in strikes related to jobs that affect public safety and health.
  • A public employee is paid by the public to perform a specific function that could be vital for the health and safety of every citizen.
  • There should be a jeopardy clause to any employee’s insubordinate behavior, while any labor union that sponsors such action should be disbanded and restricted from future existence.
  • Every government has the responsibility to adjust its labor forces, up or down, as necessary.
  • Public water and sewer employees sign on to provide a service and to protect public health. That is a serious commitment that must be honored. It seems that many union employees place their interests above all else and have lost the sense of this commitment. Go back to work and work out your problems using a reasonable non-strike method.
  • The real problem is that the unions shouldn’t have the power to strike on any public service activity, as it’s the modern day equivalent of hostage-taking (something that terrorists do).

NO 26%

  • Why should public servants have fewer rights than other workers? Public-sector employees have enjoyed better security and benefits in exchange for earning less than those in the private sector, but those benefits are quickly eroding.
  • All workers should have the right to strike. Public-sector employees shouldn’t be denied this right.
  • The law gave workers the right to strike, and the utility should have had a back-up plan just as in any other union shop. You hire temps or management to work their jobs. If you get paid the big bucks, you have to be prepared to do the job.
  • Public safety and the environment come first, but the courts shouldn’t try to influence what should be a dispute between management (the city) and the employees. They should sit down and figure out what’s best for them and the city. Don’t dictate; negotiate (as hard as that sounds). In the long run, they’ll be on your side, even if it means few employees.
  • Firefighters can go on strike.


  • [A judge should act] only in extreme cases in which the health and safety of the public is in dire and imminent danger if the employees do not immediately return to work. Even then, there should be a time limit by which they can go on strike again, thus giving management time to make alternate plans.
  • If the jurisdiction has a law prohibiting public employees from striking, then the judge has the authority to impose the jail sentence. However, in the absence of such a law, the judge shouldn’t be able to order jail time.
  • If the strike potentially causes public harm, then judges should be able to [order them back]. The situations where they can order staff back to work should be narrowly defined, though.