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strike

Introduction

strike, concentrated work stoppage by a group of employees, the chief weapon of organized labor. A suspension of work on the employer's part is called a lockout. Strikes usually result from conflicts of interest between the employer, who seeks to reduce costs, and employees, who seek higher wages (or in times of depression try to stop wage decreases), shorter hours, better working conditions, union recognition, and/or improved fringe benefits. Employers may attempt to continue operation without the striking employees, and in such cases violence may occur. Violence, long a feature of U.S. labor history, often resulted from the use of armed guards (hired by the employer) or of police or state militia against pickets (see picketing) or for the protection of strikebreakers. During the middle and late 1930s workers in the mass-production industries (especially in the automobile industry) perfected the technique of the sit-down, later declared illegal, which was designed to prevent strikebreaking; the workers remained on the premises while refusing to work. Another cause of strikes has been the jurisdictional dispute to determine which union should be the bargaining agent for the employees. After the separation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations from the American Federation of Labor in 1935 (see American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations), such strikes were numerous until they were forbidden by the Taft-Hartley Labor Act in 1947.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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