The Ruthless Lawlessness of the Strike Weapon

As these lines are written, our nation has been victimized by a coal-miners’ strike now for some seventy days. According to news reports, a proposed settlement has been rejected by the miners’ bargaining council by an overwhelming vote. No new proposed settlement is yet in sight. In many areas a shortage of electrical power threatens to become a reality in a matter of days; in some places cutbacks in power have already been ordered. In others mandatory power blackouts, in an effort to conserve and to make available for as long as possible a minimal amount of power, are being planned, and the public is being warned to expect them. Industrial plants are warning that in case of such cutbacks, they will be compelled to shut down, with the result that thousands will be thrown out of work. 

In short, the current miners’ strike is a graphic illustration of the power and the willingness of an organized group of workers to bring, if necessary, a whole nation and an entire economy to its knees, all in order to gain its own ends. 

This I characterize as ruthless.

The miners and their union simply do not care. They do not care for anyone, except, perhaps, themselves and their own ends. They do not care whether the wheels of industry are brought to a grinding halt. They do not care whether millions of people may be left without heat and light. They do not care whether the economy of the nation is seriously impaired. They do not even care whether thousands upon thousands of their fellow workers, their union brothers, are thrown out of dork. And is this not ironic, when it is one of the boasts of unionism that it cares for the worker, seeks the welfare of the worker, aims to improve the lot of the worker? But the miners do not care. It is even doubtful whether they really care for themselves in an economic sense: for not in a lifetime will they recover in terms of benefits gained by this strike the millions of dollars lost by the prolonged strike itself. They are simply out to gain their own ends, no matter what the cost. They are ruthless!

And they are lawless!

No, I am not saying that they are violating the law of the land. I am well aware that under the law of the land it is lawful to strike; in fact, the law recognizes the strike-weapon or the threat of the strike as the only real weapon which a labor union has. In the thinking of our country so-called collective bargaining is always bargaining with a pistol at your head.

Neither am I referring to the fact that there have been numerous instances of violence reported. Not only did the union miners refuse to work, but they tried by force to prevent non-union miners from working and to shut down non-union mines. And more than once it was becomes necessary for the police to employ force to protect the lives and property of those not even involved in the current dispute. This, too, was lawlessness on the part of the miners; and it only serves to underscore how ruthless they will be in their lawlessness.

But I am referring to the fact that the very principle of the strike is lawless. It is the principle of “might makes right.” It is violation of the God-given authority of the employer to exercise control in his own sphere, over his own property, over his own capital, and over his own goods. Yes, I am well aware that “capital” can sin and does sin, that is can oppress the worker and has oppressed him; for this the employer is responsible before God, too—whether he is a godly or an ungodly employer. But this is not the point. One wrong does not justify another. The wrongs and injustices of the employer do not justify the rebellion and lawlessness of the employee of group of employees. Both are responsible before the Judge of heaven and earth. And in this particular instance it is my purpose to emphasize that the strike is lawless because it is violation of the law of God—the law that stands above any law of the land. Its principle is the principle of revolution!

The ruthlessness of the current strike only serves to underscore the lawlessness of the strike weapon.

I suppose it may be said that such lawlessness is only to be expected. For not only do we live in an era of increasing lawlessness in every sphere of life today, but our very country was founded in revolution, and is founded on the principle of revolution. That is, of course, the deepest reason why the strike-weapon is recognized by the law of the land, too. Though our country prides itself as being a nation of government by law, and though from time to time it boasts that the constitution, the law, is above every citizen, nevertheless the deepest principle—and that is, after all, the principle of the natural man always—is “every man for himself, and devil take the hindmost.”

Of these things the Reformed Christian should be keenly aware. He should have a keen eye for the increase of lawlessness among men. For that lawlessness is a sign of the times! And he should be reminded of the wickedness of the strike-weapon by this concrete example, lest as a Christian worker he be tempted to join forces with the world. It is our calling also in this respect to keep ourselves unspotted from the world!

Meanwhile, our “evangelical” President has shown himself as weak and as unwilling, thus far, even to invoke what little power he has against this lawlessness. For he has refused to invoke even the very weak tool of that provision of the Taft-Hartley Act by which an 80-day cooling off period can be ordered. Is he afraid of “big labor”? Or is he afraid, perhaps, that the miners are so lawless that they would not heed such an order?