Strike action

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Sit down, just keep your seat
Sit down and rest your feet
Sit down, you got ’em beat
Sit down, sit down! ~ Maurice Sugar

A Strike action is a work stoppage caused by the mass refusal of employees to work. A strike usually takes place in response to employee grievances. Strikes became common during the Industrial Revolution, when mass labor became important in factories and mines.

I am glad to know that there is a system of labor where the laborer can strike if he wants to! I would to God that such a system prevailed all over the world. ~ Abraham Lincoln
When they smile and say, “No raise in pay!”—sit down, sit down
When you want the boss to come across—sit down, sit down ~ Maurice Sugar
When the boss won’t talk go and take a walk—sit down, sit down
When the boss see that he’ll want a little chat—sit down, sit down ~ Maurice Sugar
Striker assembly
WV Strike 2018 01
Strike not for a few cents more an hour, because the price of living will be raised faster still, but strike for all you earn, be content with nothing less. ~ Lucy Parsons
WV Strike 2018 00
"Der Streik" von Robert Koehler

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  • In the 1920s, the flourishing automobile industry brought prosperity to Detroit, Michigan. With the 1929 stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression, car sales collapsed, and production plummeted. The depression forced General Motors and other car companies to lay off many of their workers in Detroit.
    On March 7, 1932, a march of unemployed autoworkers was met with violence when four workers were shot to death by the local police and security guards employed by the Ford Motor Company. The Ford Hunger March, as the demonstration became known, contributed to the creation of the United Automobile Workers (UAW) labor union. Four years later, the UAW staged a strike that began in December 1936. Some 100,000 autoworkers simply sat down on the job and occupied 17 General Motors plants. “Sit Down,” written by attorney Maurice Sugar, became an anthem of the strikers. After f44 days, the strike ended in a victory for UAW, thanks in part to a labor-friendly governor, Frank Murphy, who used the National Guard as a peacekeeping force that assisted negotiations. The UAW gained union recognition from General Motors and a promise the company would not fire or otherwise punish the strikers. Workers also received a wage increase of five cents an hour. Maurice Sugar went on to serve as general counsel of the UAW from 1937 to 1946.
    • Bill of Rights Institute, background on Maurice Sugar and his 1937 pro-union song "Sit Down, Sit Down"


  • This paper examines the economic impact of the 1979 labor strike against lettuce producer-shippers in the Imperial Valley of California. The theory presented suggests that formidable problems are encountered by agricultural labor unions in obtaining higher wages for farm workers. During the 1979 strike, ironically the returns to many of the lettuce producers in the Imperial Valley increased substantially.
  • We shall Strike. We shall pursue the revolution we have proposed. We are sons of the Mexican Revolution, a revolution of the poor seeking, bread and justice. Our revolution will not be armed, but we want the existing social order to dissolve, we want a new social order. We are poor, we are humble, and our only choices is to Strike in those ranchers where we are not treated with the respect we deserve as working men, where our rights as free and sovereign men are not recognized. We do not want the paternalism of the rancher; we do not want the contractor; we do not want charity at the price of our dignity. We want to be equal with all the working men in the nation; we want just wage, better working conditions, a decent future for our children. To those who oppose us, be they ranchers, police, politicians, or speculators, we say that we are going to continue fighting until we die, or we win. We shall overcome.
  • There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.
    • Calvin Coolidge, as governor of Massachusetts, telegram to Samuel Gompers (September 14, 1919), regarding the Boston police strike. Reported in Calvin Coolidge, Have Faith in Massachusetts (1919), p. 223.


  • Government employee unions have vastly more power than do private-sector unions because the entities they work for are mostly monopolies. When the employees of a grocery store, for example, go on strike and shut down the store or grocery chain, consumers can shop elsewhere, and the grocery store management is perfectly free to hire replacement workers. In contrast, when a city teachers’ or garbage truck drivers union goes on strike, there is no school or garbage collection as long as the strike goes on. is gives the government union enormous bargaining power as elected officials must then deal with the rabid complaints of voters about the absence of schools or garbage collection and are pressured to quickly give in to the union’s demands.
    In addition, government school teachers often are tenured after only two or three years and civil service regulations make it extremely costly, if not impossible, to hire replacement workers. Thus, when government bureaucrats go on strike they have the ability to completely shut down the entire “industry” that they work in indefinitely. This is the primary reason why the expenses of state and local governments have skyrocketed in recent decades.
    • Thomas DiLorenzo, Organized Crime: The Unvardnished Truth About Government (2012, Mises Institute) 143-144


  • Although recourse must always be had first to a sincere dialogue between the parties, a strike, nevertheless, can remain even in present-day circumstances a necessary, though ultimate, aid for the defense of the workers' own rights and the fulfillment of their just desires.


  • The Teamsters union said it has secured pay raises for United Parcel Service workers, averting what would have been one of the largest strikes in U.S. history.
    "UPS has put $30 billion in new money on the table as a direct result of these negotiations," Teamsters general president Sean O'Brien said in a statement. "This contract sets a new standard in the labor movement and raises the bar for all workers."
    Under the tentative five-year agreement, existing full and part-time UPS Teamsters will earn $2.75 more per hour in 2023, and $7.50 more per hour over the length of the contract. Wages for existing part-timers will also be raised to no less than $21 per hour, effective immediately, according to a Teamsters statement.
  • New part-time hires at UPS will start at $21 per hour and advance to $23 per hour.
    The current five-year collective bargaining agreement expires July 31. It is the largest private-sector contract in North America, covering roughly 340,000 UPS workers. Local Teamsters chapters had been holding practice pickets in recent weeks in preparation for a strike if the company and the union failed to negotiate a new contract by the end of the month.
    Union members from across the country still need to ratify the new contract in August.
    Contract negotiations stalled in early July over wages for part-time workers, who make up more than half of the unionized workforce at UPS. The union initially rejected UPS' economic proposal, arguing the company can afford to increase pay for its part-time employees.
    UPS posted a record profit last year, as the company reached $100 billion in revenue in 2022 for the first time.
    "Together we reached a win-win-win agreement on the issues that are important to Teamsters leadership, our employees and to UPS and our customers," said UPS CEO Carol Tomé in a statement on Tuesday. "This agreement continues to reward UPS's full- and part-time employees with industry-leading pay and benefits while retaining the flexibility we need to stay competitive, serve our customers and keep our business strong."
  • The contract talks, which began in April, had previously yielded significant wins for the union on issues related to wages and workplace safety. UPS agreed to equip new delivery vehicles with air conditioning, end forced overtime and eliminate a two-tier pay system for delivery drivers, among other concessions.
    But wages and benefits for part-time workers remained an unresolved sticking point for weeks, until just days before a possible strike. The last nationwide walkout at UPS, in 1997, lasted 15 days and cost the company $850 million. A strike this year would have disrupted package deliveries for millions of customers across the U.S. It could have cost the U.S. economy more than $7 billion, according to economic estimates.
    UPS' main competitors – including FedEx, Amazon and the United States Postal Service – would not have been able to take on all the volume left behind during a UPS strike. UPS delivered an average of 24.3 million packages per day in 2022.<brz>Earlier in July, UPS started to train its management employees to step in during the strike – a move that a Teamsters spokesperson called an "insult" to unionized workers.
    The threat of a UPS strike came as thousands of workers across sectors, from Hollywood to the hospitality industry, have walked off the job in recent weeks over wages and work conditions.
  • Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought. Strike against manufacturing shrapnel and gas bombs and all other tools of murder. Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human beings. Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction. Be heroes in an army of construction.
  • When I was leaving Poland at the end of 1968 (I had not been in any Western country for at least six previous years), I had as somewhat vague idea of what the radical student movement and different leftist groups or parties might be. What I saw and read I found pathetic and disgusting in nearly all (still: not all) cases. I do not shed tears for a few windows smashed in demonstrations, that old bitch, consumer capitalism, will survive it. Neither do I find scandalous the rather natural ignorance of young people. What impressed me was mental degradation of a kind I had never seen before in any leftist movement. I saw young people trying to "reconstitute" universities and to liberate them from horrifying, savage, monstrous, fascist oppression. The list of demands, with variations, was very similar all over the world of campuses. These fascist pigs of the Establishment want us to pass examinations while we are making the revolution; let them give all of us A grades without examinations; curiously enough, the anti-fascist warriors wanted to get their degrees and diplomas in such fields as mathematics, sociology or law, and not in such as carrying posters, distributing leaflets or destroying offices. And sometimes they got what they wanted, the fascist pigs of the establishment gave them grades without examinations. Very often there were demands for abolishing altogether some subjects of teaching as irrelevant, e.g. foreign languages (these fascists want us, internationalist revolutionaries, to waste time in learning languages, why? To prevent us from making world revolution!) In one place revolutionary philosophers went on strike because they got a reading list including Plato, Descartes and other bourgeois idiots, instead of relevant great philosophers like Che Guevara and Mao.
  • A former rector of San Marcos, the oldest university of the Americas, declared to me more than ten years ago that he had resigned his exalted office because either the students or the professors were on strike. Regular teaching had become well-nigh impossible.
    • Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Lefism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse, Arlington House, (1974) p. 609, note 31


  • What is most extraordinary about these actions is that union officials have not called them. In some cases, there is no union. In other cases, such as auto, there is a union and workers are forced to strike against it as well as the company. In certain cases, such as the Bath shipyard, it seems that union officials may have tacitly supported the workers’ walkouts, though the situation is unclear. Sometimes these unofficial strikes violate a union’s contractual non-strike provisions or in the case of public employees such walkouts may also violate the law. Yet workers have organised themselves to carry them out with few resources beyond social media and traditional word-of-mouth, in order to protect their health and to save their jobs.
  • Wildcat strikes can be looked upon from two sides. The wildcat strike usually erupts either because there is no union or the union’s leaders have failed to provide leadership to fight the boss. Leftists have sometimes romanticised the wildcat as the authentic expression of the workers’ will, an act that developed spontaneously out of the workers’ resistance to the boss. Some see it as the harbinger of the general strike that will overthrow capitalism and bring the workers to power. At the same time, one has to recognise that workers had to go on a wildcat strike because they hadn’t taken control of their union and couldn’t use the union as the expression of their power. The wildcat is both an expression of workers’ direct power at the point of production, but also a demonstration of their failure – because of the power of the bosses and the labour bureaucracy – to build a democratically controlled union that could express their will.
  • When workers recognise this, at least in a period of social upheaval, they have in the past sometimes attempted to take power in their unions and turn them into fighting organisations. Wildcat strikes then can become the source of energy that fuels rank-and-file movements, as has been the case in heavy industry for more than a century and among public employees for 75 years. The great advance of American workers in the 1930s that led to the founding of the Congress to Industrial Organizations and a vast expansion of the American Federation of Labor derived from just such wildcat strikes in the rubber plants, the auto industry, among electrical workers and many others. Workers walked out by the thousands, some occupied their plants, while others created mass picket lines, fought scabs and police. Wildcat strikes spread during the Depression decade like a virus through the United States, drawing in small industrial shops and retail workers. A similar thing happened in the 1960s and 1970s with teachers and public employees who walked out in illegal strikes to found their unions. Rank-and-file upheavals also transformed the United Mine Workers in the 1970s and shook up other unions as well.
  • Calvin Coolidge, when Governor of Massachusetts, refused to allow a police strike in 1919, the one President Wilson criticized is was an act of great courage, since it could have led to public disorder and chaos. Voters agreed and Coolidge was propelled into the vice presidency and then the presidency in 1923 President Ronald Reagan also fired the federal air traffic controllers in 1981, when they illegally went on strike But these were rare exceptions As the decades passed, fewer and fewer public officials dared to stand up to labor and to government labor in particular
    • Hunter Lewis, Crony Capialism: 2008-2012, AC2 books, p 211
  • I am glad to know that there is a system of labor where the laborer can strike if he wants to! I would to God that such a system prevailed all over the world.
    • Abraham Lincoln, speech at Hartford, Connecticut (March 5, 1860), as reported in the Hartford Daily Courant (March 6, 1860), reported in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 4, p. 7.


  • Strike not for a few cents more an hour, because the price of living will be raised faster still, but strike for all you earn, be content with nothing less.


  • Although the union leadership may recognize early in negotiations that the firm cannot or will not meet the workers' demands, the rank and file of the union often do not understand the impracticability of their position until after the workers have struck and the firm fails to surrender.
  • Imagine that General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler jointly agreed to raise the price of the cars they sold by $2,000: Their profits would rise as every American who bought a car paid more. Some Americans would no longer be able to afford a car at the higher price, so the automakers would manufacture and sell fewer vehicles. Then they would need--and hire--fewer workers. The Detroit automakers' stock prices would rise, but the overall economy would suffer. That is why federal anti-trust laws prohibit cartels and the automakers cannot collude to raise prices.
    Now consider how the United Auto Workers (UAW)--the union representing the autoworkers in Detroit--functions. Before the current downturn, the UAW routinely went on strike unless the Detroit automakers paid what they demanded-- until recently, $70 an hour in wages and benefits. Gold-plated UAW health benefits for retirees and active workers added $1,200 to the cost of each vehicle that GM produced in 2007. Other benefits, such as full retirement after 30 years of employment and the recently eliminated JOBS bank (which paid workers for not working), added more.
    Some of these costs come out of profits, and some get passed to consumers through higher prices. UAW members earn higher wages, but every American who buys a car pays more, stock owners' wealth falls, and some Americans can no longer afford to buy a new car. The automakers also hire fewer workers because they now make and sell fewer cars.
  • Strikes, boycott, parliamentarism, meetings and demonstrations are all good forms of struggle as means for preparing and organising the proletariat. But not one of these means is capable of abolishing existing inequality. All these means must be concentrated in one principal and decisive means; the proletariat must rise and launch a determined attack upon the bourgeoisie in order to destroy capitalism to its foundations. This principal and decisive means is the socialist revolution.
  • When they tie the hands of the union man—sit down, sit down
    When they give ’em a pact they’ll take them back—sit down, sit down
  • When they smile and say, “No raise in pay!”—sit down, sit down
    When you want the boss to come across—sit down, sit down
  • When your feet are numb just twiddle your thumb—sit down, sit down
    When you want ’em to know they’d better go slow—sit down, sit down
  • When the boss won’t talk go and take a walk—sit down, sit down
    When the boss see that he’ll want a little chat—sit down, sit down
  • Sit down, just keep your seat
    Sit down and rest your feet
    Sit down, you got ’em beat
    Sit down, sit down!
    • Maurice Sugar, chorus of "Sit Down, Sit Down" (1937), recorded with the Manhattan Chorus in April 1937


  • If we are rewarded according to our need, not according to our work, how do you get people to work at all -- they would get their income without work if the need it without work? Further, how would one get people to work where they are needed, rather than where they want to if their income is independent of their work and of the demand for it and depends only on their need? Compulsion would have to replace the inducements of the market which now attract people to the occupations in which they are needed and to the employers who can use them. Only slave labor can be rewarded according to need-as seen by the slave holder, of course. And slave labor is not efficient. Therefore the Soviet Union has now returned to an incentive system which differs from ours only by being much steeper and leading to greater inequalities.
    If a demonstration was needed, the recent events in Poland certainly furnish it. In that socialist country the workers went on strike against the management of the socialized industries. What more is needed to make it clear that the classless society Marx imagined in which everyone wouldshare the same interest is a dream that cannot be realized, contrary to what he thought, by socializing the means of production?
    • Ernest Van Den Haag, Marxism as Pseudo-Science, Reason Papers No. 12 (Spring 1987), pp. 26-32.


  • At the end of my second year at Hampton, by the help of some money sent me by my mother and brother John, supplemented by a small gift from one of the teachers at Hampton, I was enabled to return to my home in Malden, West Virginia, to spend my vacation. When I reached home I found that the salt-furnaces were not running, and that the coal-mine was not being operated on account of the miners being out on a “strike.” This was something which, it seemed, usually occurred whenever the men got two or three months ahead in their savings. During the strike, of course, they spent all that they had saved, and would often return to work in debt at the same wages, or would move to another mine at considerable expense. In either case, my observations convinced me that the miners were worse off at the end of a strike. Before the days of strikes in that section of the country, I knew miners who had considerable money in the bank, but as soon as the professional labor agitators got control, the savings of even the more thrifty ones began disappearing.

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Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Strikes and Lock-outs.