Category Archives: Strikes

Sign Of The Times: Labor Strikes May Make Comeback

Source: Scott Neuman, NPR, December 8, 2012

…Once a mainstay of the labor arsenal, strikes have largely fallen off since the early 1980s. So a recent spate of high-profile work stoppages, including by Chicago teachers, nonunionized Wal-Mart workers and New York City fast-food employees, has some experts wondering if we’re seeing a resurgence of the tactic.

Thomas Kochan, co-director of the Sloan Institute for Work and Employment Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, thinks years of pent-up frustration over stagnant wages and diminishing benefits has finally hit the boiling point….

Making Sure a Strike Centers On Unfair Labor Practices

Source: Robert M. Schwartz, Labor Notes, August 8, 2012

Positioning a walkout as an unfair labor practice strike is one of the key tasks for any union on the verge of a labor battle. Under the rules of the National Labor Relations Act, and the laws of many states that permit public employee strikes, ULP strikers cannot be permanently replaced.

When the employer hires replacements during a ULP strike, and the union later submits an unconditional offer to return, the employer must reinstate all strikers. The rule holds even if replacements must be dismissed.

Strikes! Labor History Encyclopedia for the Pacific Northwest

Source: Pacfic Northwest Labor and Civil Rights Projects, 2012

Few regions have experienced a labor history as dramatic or as consequential as the Pacific Northwest. Unions and labor radicals have helped shape Washington, Oregon, and Idaho since the late 19th century.

This project assembles the most extensive online collection of materials about labor history for this, or any other, region. Here you will find detailed information and primary sources about key historical events, including the Seattle General Strike of 1919, the unemployed movements and labor crusades of the 1930s, farmworker campaigns from the 1930s to 1980s, timber worker unions, waterfront strikes, Filipino cannery worker unions, the Industrial Workers of the World, and the history-making WTO confrontation of 1999.

Labor Yearbooks
We have also compiled year-by-year chronicles of labor activism for certain decades. These Labor Yearbooks are a unique resource. In detail never before attempted we have sifted the key labor newspapers of Washington State creating a database of hundreds of strikes, boycotts, organizing campaigns, and other labor initiatives for each year. Digital copies of original news items are part of the Yearbook.

Labor Press
Labor journalism has always been an important subset of American media and one of the keys to effective organizing and labor’s political influence. Here are profiles of more than 50 union and radical newspapers that have published in the region since the 1890s.

Photos, Newsreels, Films
Here are hundreds of digitized historical photographs and several important films and newsreels.

Can Labor Strike Back? / America's unions must find a way to circumvent restrictive federal laws

Source: Bhaskar Sunkara, In These Times, May 10, 2012

On May Day, tens of thousands of Americans took to the streets. Invoking labor’s militant past, Occupiers in many cities called it a “general strike.” But few have asked why even the traditional strike has become almost an anachronism for America’s labor movement. In 1974, there were 424 major work stoppages, each involving at least 1,000 workers. By 2009, only five such stoppages occurred.

It’s easy to see this trend as damning evidence of labor’s irrelevance and the need to find a fresh wellspring of social and economic change. It’s even easier to place the blame squarely at the feet of conservative union leaders. Both these views lack nuance. Labor unions face a legal framework stacked against them. Laws can’t be casually broken: Unions have an important responsibility to their members and the financial assets they safeguard. Yet it’s worth remembering that past labor leaders believed in industrial action on a scale that would seem revolutionary even to radicals in the movement today. Figures like Samuel Gompers, Dave Beck, George Meany and Walter Reuther thought the strike was the most effective weapon of the working class. The decline of this venerable tactic has been devastating to our unions.

May Day's Radical History: What Occupy Is Fighting for

Source: Jacob Remes, AlterNet, April 27, 2012

This May 1st Occupy actions planned on May Day are tied to the generations-long movement for the eight-hour day, to immigrant workers, to police brutality and repression of the labor movement.
See also:
Rosa Luxemburg, What Are the Origins of May Day? 1894
Rosa Luxemburg, The Idea of May Day on the March, 1913
Guido Baracchi, May Day, 1921
Nestor Makhno, The First of May: Symbol of a New Era, 1928
Alexander Trachtenberg, The History of May Day, 1932
Joseph North, May Day: Made in America, 1943
Mother Jones, from her Autobiography: The Haymarket Tragedy, 1925.

Major Work Stoppages in 2011

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economic News Release, USDL-12-0215, February 8, 2012

In 2011, there were 19 major strikes and lockouts involving 1,000 or more workers and lasting at least one shift, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The 19 major work stoppages in 2011 idled 113,000 workers for 1.02 million lost workdays, a large increase compared to 2010 with 11 major work stoppage idling 45,000 workers for 302,000 lost workdays. In 2009, there were record lows of 5 major work stoppages idling 13,000 workers for 124,000 lost workdays.

The longest work stoppage beginning in 2011 was between American Crystal Sugar Company and the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers, Sugar Council. The ongoing work stoppage began in August and has lasted throughout the remainder of 2011 (105 workdays) with 1,300 workers accounting for 136,500 lost workdays. The largest work stoppage in 2011 in terms of number of workers and total workdays idle was between Verizon Communications and the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, with 45,000 workers accounting for 450,000 lost workdays.

This release includes information for the work stoppage between the National Football League (NFL) and the NFL Players Association. The work stoppage between the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the NBA Players Association involved fewer than 1,000 workers and is therefore not part of this data series.

Do Strikes Kill? Evidence from New York State

Source: Jonathan Gruber and Samuel A. Kleiner, American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, Vol. 4, No. 1, February 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Hospitals now represent one of the largest union sectors of the US economy, and there is particular concern about the impact of strikes on patient welfare. We analyze the effects of nurses’ strikes in hospitals on patient outcomes in New York State. Controlling for hospital specific heterogeneity, the results show that nurses’ strikes increase in-hospital mortality by 18.3 percent and 30-day readmission by 5.7 percent for patients admitted during a strike, with little change in patient demographics, disease severity or treatment intensity. The results suggest that hospitals functioning during nurses’ strikes do so at a lower quality of patient care.

No-Strike Clauses Hold Back Unions

Source: Stanley Aronowitz, Labor Notes, December 13, 2011

When leaders of the Occupy movement’s most reliable labor ally, the Longshore Union (ILWU), declared the union would not participate in Monday’s shutdown of West Coast ports, they illustrated a great weakness plaguing our unions.

Labor is confined by contract unionism, whose core is the no-strike clause.

PATCO: The Strike That Changed American Labor

Source: WNYC, The Takeaway, October 17, 2011

In recent months there has been a resurgence of labor protests across the United States. From Ohio to Wisconsin, union members are taking to the streets once more. Yet despite this apparent resurgence, the power of American unions has declined significantly in recent decades. Today The Takeaway traces it all back to August 1981, when nearly 13,000 air traffic controllers went on strike creating a standoff with Ronald Reagan that ended when he fired the majority of them and de-certified their union, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization.

Out of the Smoke and the Flame: The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and its Legacy

Source: New Labor Forum, Vol. 20 no. 1, Winter 2011

March of this year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. For an amnesiac culture like our own, this is one of those rare moments that endure in the public memory – our readers hardly have to be reminded of it. So we are instead publishing four articles that commemorate that tragedy by examining its various legacies.

Articles include:
– Why No Fire This Time?: From the Mass Strike to no Strike
By Stephen Pimpare
Exploring the limits of resistance since the days of the Triangle Fire.

– From the Triangle Fire to the BP Explosion: A Short History of the Century-Long Movement for Safety and Health
By Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner
Is the glass half empty or half full?

– Feminism and the Labor Movement: A Century of Collaboration and Conflict
By Eileen Boris and Annelise Orleck
Is the feminization of the labor movement an indicator of its decline or a harbinger of its renewal?