The Civil District Court preliminarily enjoined a strike by a union of police officers against the City of New Orleans, reasoning that the police have no right to strike. We granted a writ of review to decide that question because no Louisiana statutory law or decision of an appellate court has done so.
In other states, every court that has considered the question has decided that, in the absence of a statute governing public employee strikes, public employees have no right to strike or engage in work stoppages. An Annotation at 37 A.L.R.3d 1147, 1156-1157 (1971), lists three columns of cases from Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington and West Virginia as applying or at least recognizing the rule that public employees are denied the right to strike even in the absence of an express
Although the case before us does not present the broad question of the right of any public employee to strike, we hold that a strike by police officers must be prohibited.
In the case of a police strike, the concerted refusal to work by the peace-keeping employees of the government not only leaves society defenseless against crime but even inspires lawlessness.
No comparable harm can come to society in the case of a strike against ordinary private business. Striking employees of a private business can bring their employer to his knees without endangering the public health and safety, while striking police officers cannot.
More swiftly and surely than any other, a strike by law enforcement officers takes law enforcement and consequently the rule of law itself from our society. A police strike begins as anarchy and leads towards terrorism.
Even the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, in its 1966 statement condemning as unfair one-sidedness the prohibition of public strikes, supported a different treatment for police: "AFSCME insists upon the right of public employees—except for police and other law enforcement officers—to strike."
We agree with the union's view that the right of government employees to freedom of speech and peaceably to assemble and to petition government for redress of grievances, U.S.Const. amend. I, La.Const. art. 1 §§ 7 and 9, exists in respect to their relations with the government as employer; see Tassin v. Local 832, Nat. U. of Police Off. of AFL-CIO, La.App. 4 Cir. 1975, 311 So.2d 591. Government employees can, however, as they did in Tassin, speak freely and peaceably assemble and petition their government without striking. To enjoin striking by police does not deprive them of those constitutional rights.
Finally, we recognize that the absence of the threat of strike, which is the employees' ultimate weapon in labor negotiations, places the union at a disadvantage in collective bargaining. Nevertheless, the overriding concern for public safety, health and welfare requires that strikes by policemen be declared illegal.
Accordingly, the judgment preliminarily enjoining the strike by defendants is affirmed.