Category Archives: Strikes

What Labor Can Learn from Bernie

Source: Joe Burns, Jacobin, June 15, 2016

It’s time to reintegrate radical ideas into the labor movement. … The positive response to Sanders’s avowed democratic socialism — and to his call for a political revolution — opens the door for a discussion all but absent from today’s labor movement: the importance of socialist ideas to a successful trade union movement. ….

Labor Market Institutions in the Gilded Age of American Economic History

Source: Suresh Naidu, Noam Yuchtman, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w22117, March 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Although 19th century American labor markets were unencumbered by regulatory legislation, labor market institutions played an active role determining labor market outcomes and the distribution of income. We provide evidence of firm-specific rents in 19th century labor markets: employees in firms experiencing positive output price shocks earned significant wage premia, relative to very similar workers. Employees and employers bargained over rents in the labor contract, with workers striking to raise wages. We present data on strikes’ frequency in the 19th century, and suggestive correlations between strikes and wages. The U.S. government supported employers in limiting strikes’ efficacy. Strike-breaking actions included intervention by police and militia; employers often relied on less drastic, but still effective, judicial labor injunctions suppressing strikes. We document the rise of these injunctions, pointing to the important role played by the judicial branch in structuring (Northern) American labor market institutions prior to the rise of legislative regulation.

A syndicalist moment? Democracy, insurgent unionism, and the ‘Outlaw Strike’ of 1920

Source: Paul Michel Taillon, Labor History, Published online: March 30, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article considers World War I era labor insurgency through an examination of the 1920 ‘outlaw’ switchmen’s strike, one of the largest rank-and-file revolts of the postwar strike wave. Drawing upon Bureau of Investigation surveillance reports, the article argues the strike represented not so much an expression of a ‘syndicalist impulse’ as a struggle over the definition of the new unionism and the ideological legacy of the war. Inspired by the wartime rhetoric of Americanism and industrial democracy, pressed by the rising cost of living, and frustrated with the failure of the state and their parent unions to deliver living wages, the insurgents briefly succeeded in building democratic, cross-craft unions. The rebel unionists failed, but the ‘Outlaw Strike’ arguably was as important as the later and larger 1922 national shopmen’s strike in the way it highlighted issues of wages, union democracy, and employee representation.

Labor History: Primary Source Set

Source: Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), Primary Source Sets, 2016

Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) Primary Source Sets are designed to help students develop critical thinking skills by exploring topics in history, literature, and culture through primary sources. Drawing online materials from libraries, archives, and museums across the United States, the sets use letters, photographs, posters, oral histories, video clips, sheet music, and more. Each set includes a topic overview, ten to fifteen primary sources, links to related resources, and a teaching guide. These sets were created and reviewed by the teachers on the DPLA’s Education Advisory Committee.

The Labor History Primary Source Set includes:
The Populist Movement
The Homestead Strike
Boomtimes Again: Twentieth-Century Mining in the Mojave Desert
When Miners Strike: West Virginia Coal Mining and Labor History
Mexican Labor and World War II: The Bracero Program
The United Farm Workers and the Delano Grape Strike

With 3 Recent High-Profile Walkoffs, Is the Wildcat Strike Back?

Source: Shaun Richman, In These Times, Working In These Times blog, February 12, 2016

Three high-profile wildcat strikes have caught business watchers and union leaders by surprise in recent weeks. Could they be bellwethers for a rising tide of worker militancy? A wildcat strike is one that occurs with little notice or legal sanction. Wildcats are often organized in violation of a contractual commitment not to strike or a legal prohibition to do so, and in defiance of both the employer and official union leadership. Non-union workplaces wildcat by striking without formally certifying or affiliating with a union. Wildcat job actions have sparked some of the largest strike waves and union gains in American history, and the revitalization of the 21st century labor movement will require a degree of worker organizing that is not dependent on union staff and resources. So spontaneous job actions merit attention…..

Major Work Stoppages in 2015

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, USDL-16-0272, February 10, 2016

In 2015, there were 12 major work stoppages involving 1,000 or more workers and lasting at least one shift, one more than in 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Since the series began in 1947 the lowest annual total was 5 in 2009. (See table 1 and chart 1.) Major work stoppages beginning in 2015 idled 47,000 workers, higher than the 34,000 workers of 2014. In 2015, there were 740,000 days idle from major work stoppages in effect, also higher than 2014 with 200,000 days idle. In 2015, private industry organizations accounted for over 92 percent of the total days idle, consisting of 684,000 days of idleness. In 2015, oil and gas extraction, manufacturing, and educational services industries accounted for approximately 89 percent of all days idle for major work stoppages in 2015. (See tables 1 and 2 and chart 2.)

Martin Luther King, Teachers’ Unions and Social Justice

Source: Yohuru Williams, Huffington Post blog, January 12, 2106

As the nation prepares to mark what would have been the 87th birthday of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, we should remember Dr. King as a staunch supporter of both public education and organized labor. This is especially important as teachers in cities across the nation including Chicago and Detroit, weigh the necessity of civil disobedience and work stoppages to raise awareness and encourage a fair resolution to their concerns….

How Walmart Keeps an Eye on Its Massive Workforce – The retail giant is Always watching.

Source: Susan Berfield, Bloomberg Businessweek, November 24, 2015

In the autumn of 2012, when Walmart first heard about the possibility of a strike on Black Friday, executives mobilized with the efficiency that had built a retail empire. Walmart has a system for almost everything: When there’s an emergency or a big event, it creates a Delta team. The one formed that September included representatives from global security, labor relations, and media relations. For Walmart, the stakes were enormous. The billions in sales typical of a Walmart Black Friday were threatened. The company’s public image, especially in big cities where its power and size were controversial, could be harmed. But more than all that: Any attempt to organize its 1 million hourly workers at its more than 4,000 stores in the U.S. was an existential danger. Operating free of unions was as essential to Walmart’s business as its rock-bottom prices…..

Internally, however, Walmart considered the group enough of a threat that it hired an intelligence-gathering service from Lockheed Martin, contacted the FBI, staffed up its labor hotline, ranked stores by labor activity, and kept eyes on employees (and activists) prominent in the group. During that time, about 100 workers were actively involved in recruiting for OUR Walmart, but employees (or associates, as they’re called at Walmart) across the company were watched; the briefest conversations were reported to the “home office,” as Walmart calls its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark…..

….The details of Walmart’s efforts during the first year it confronted OUR Walmart are described in more than 1,000 pages of e-mails, reports, playbooks, charts, and graphs, as well as testimony from its head of labor relations at the time. The documents were produced in discovery ahead of a National Labor Relations Board hearing into OUR Walmart’s allegations of retaliation against employees who joined protests in June 2013. The testimony was given in January 2015, during the hearing. OUR Walmart, which split from the UFCW in September, provided the documents to Bloomberg Businessweek after the judge concluded the case in mid-October. A decision may come in early 2016….

Massive Rolling Strikes Shut Down Quebec

Source: Sonia Singh, Labor Notes, November 23, 2015

After provincial bargaining stalled, 400,000 public sector workers across Quebec walked out in October and November on rolling one-day strikes.

The government is proposing pension cuts and only a 3 percent salary increase over five years. Since coming to power in April 2014 it has already begun cuts to services, including slashing health and education funding.

The Common Front, a coalition of Quebec public sector unions, is coordinating the strikes, which include teachers, health care workers, and government employees. Members voted to authorize six days of strikes per union. These began with one-day strikes, staggered by region. The Common Front vowed that if no agreement was reached, all members would strike at the same time December 1-3.

Labor Notes interviewed Benoit Renaud and Philippe de Grosbois, who have both been on strike. Renaud is an adult education teacher in the city of Gatineau and a member of the La Fédération Autonome de L’enseignement. de Grosbois teaches in a pre-college program in Laval and is an executive of his local, which is part of the Confédération des Syndicats Nationaux.

At the time of the interview, a December general strike was still planned. However, the Common Front recently announced it’s postponing the strike while negotiations continue…..