Social Theory and Practice

Volume 40, Issue 4, October 2014

Cristian Pérez Muñoz
Pages 649-672

Essential Services, Workers’ Freedom, and Distributive Justice

This article examines the normative implications of the essential service argument commonly used to justify restrictions on workers’ freedom to withhold their labor. The essential service argument states that essential service workers should not be allowed to strike because this form of collective bargaining can likely inflict imminent and substantial harm on society at large. This paper argues that if the provision of essential services justifies limitations on freedom to strike, then restrictions on occupational freedom can be justified for the same purpose. I illustrate this point by considering the case of compulsory service programs as recruiting tools for health workers.