In May 1985, the California Supreme Court invalidated the state's common law prohibition on public employee strikes. That controversial decision resulted from a 1976 case in which a union representing the Los Angeles County sanitation workers had been fined $163,000 for calling an illegal strike. On appeal, the justices ruled six to one that the strike ban was "no longer supportable" and sanctioned such actions for all except essential public health and safety workers. The aftershock from that decision reverberated through the state capital where the consensus of opinion among lawmakers and the governor was that the issue of public employee strikes was one to be properly settled by the legislature, not the judiciary.
California Chief Justice Rose Bird and her court have received a great deal of criticism over this decision and, as a consequence, she faces a tough reconfirmation election this November. In "Strikes Against Government: The California Supreme Court Decision," Dr. Charles W. Baird takes a critical look at the court's reasoning in the strike ruling and discusses it within the greater context of public sector unionism. He also provides an incisive evaluation of Justice Bird's arguments in defense of such strikes, exposing the fallacy of her logic.