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Home page > 10 - Livre Dix : SYNDICALISME ET AUTO-ORGANISATION DES TRAVAILLEURS > Chronologie des grèves aux USA - List of strikes in America

Chronologie des grèves aux USA - List of strikes in America

Saturday 28 February 2015, by Robert Paris

Troupes anti-grèves et grévistes, le face à face...

Chronologie des grèves aux USA - List of strikes in America

« Il n’y a plus de riches et plus de pauvres, plus de Noirs et plus de Blancs, il n’y a que des Américains », clamaient les média à chaque occasion d’unanimisme : célébrant les débuts des USA, de la conquête à la guerre d’indépendance, dans la deuxième guerre mondiale, face aux attentats du World Trade Center, célébrant Martin Luther King, ou encore se félicitant de l’élection d’Obama, mais ils n’osaient quand même pas affirmer qu’il n’y a plus d’exploiteurs ni d’exploités aux USA et plus de lutte des classes !!!

Extrait de l’introduction de Daniel Guérin à son ouvrage « Le mouvement ouvrier aux Etats-Unis 1867-1967 » :

Un homme s’était, il y a quatre-vingt ans, penché sur le berceau du Labor (mouvement ouvrier) ; et il en avait pressenti le potentiel révolutionnaire : Friedrich Engels. En 1886-1887, il entretenait avec F.A. Sorge, socialiste allemand émigré aux Etats-Unis, une correspondance dans laquelle il suivait de près l’évolution du mouvement ouvrier américain. Par ailleurs, il écrivit, au même moment, une préface à une édition américaine de son ouvrage classique : « La situation des classes laborieuses en Angleterre » et ce texte était consacré uniquement au mouvement ouvrier américain.

Engels, dans ses écrits de cette époque, aperçut, tout de suite, l’immense portée de la grande vague de grèves qui avait atteint son apogée en 1886 et marqué l’apparition des masses ouvrières américaines sur la scène de l’histoire : enfin « le charme était rompu », les « plumes » venaient de « pousser » aux travailleurs américains : « La façon dont les prolétaires ont fait leur apparition sur la scène est absolument extraordinaire. Il y a six mois personne ne soupçonnait rien, et maintenant ils paraissent subitement en masses organisées, au point de jeter la terreur dans la classe capitaliste ».

« Les mouvements spontanés, instinctifs de ces vastes masses de travailleurs, leur propagation à travers un immense territoire, l’éclatement simultané de leur commun mécontentement leur ont fait prendre conscience du fait qu’ils forment une classe nouvelle et distincte de la société américaine, une classe de salariés, de prolétaires, devenus en fait plus ou moins héréditaires. »

Engels se félicitait de ce que le mouvement ait commencé en Amérique « avec une force si gigantesque et imposante ». Il saluait dans les Knights of Labor (les Chevaliers du Travail) « la première organisation nationale créée par la classe ouvrière américaine », « immense masse d’énergie potentielle évoluant lentement et sûrement en une force réelle et vivante ».

Peu importaient leurs faiblesses et leurs inconséquences : « L’observateur lointain ne peut s’empêcher de voir en eux la matière première, à partir de laquelle l’avenir du mouvement ouvrier américain et, en même temps, celui de la société américaine seront façonnés. »…

Engels saisissait très bien le caractère essentiellement pragmatique du mouvement ouvrier américain, si déconcertant pour un Européen : « Il est beaucoup plus important que le mouvement s’étende, qu’il progresse régulièrement, qu’il prenne racine et qu’il embrasse autant que possible le mouvement ouvrier américain tout entier que de le voir partir et progresser dès le début sur un tracé d’une correction théorique parfaite. »

« Il me faudrait mal connaître mes Américains s’ils ne nous étonnaient pas tous par la grandeur de leur mouvement (…). Pratiquement en avance sur tout le monde et théoriquement encore dans les langes (…). Un peuple plein d’énergie comme aucun autre. »

Engels pensait que l’évolution foudroyante de l’industrie aux Etats-Unis serait susceptible de compenser, dans une certaine mesure, l’insuffisance théorique, le retard de la conscience de classe des travailleurs américains : « C’est la révolution opérée dans toutes les conditions traditionnelles par l’industrie en voie de développement qui, dans les têtes aussi, opère la révolution. La centralisation capitaliste marche chez vous (aux USA) avec des bottes de sept lieues… Quant à ce qui manque encore, les bourgeois le feront : nulle part dans le monde entier ils n’opèrent d’une façon aussi impudente et tyrannique que là-bas…. Là où les bourgeois mènent la lutte par de pareils moyens, elle arrive rapidement à son dénouement… Je crois dur comme fer que désormais le mouvement ira de l’avant et peut-être plus vite que chez nous… Quand le moment sera arrivé, les choses iront là-bas d’un train colossalement rapide et énergique… Que les Américains s’y mettent un jour, mais avec une énergie et une virulence à eux, en comparaison, nous serons en Europe des enfants. »

CHRONOLOGIE

1839 • La Cleveland Journeymen Bootmakers’ Society (syndicat de la corporation des bottiers) appelle à faire grève contre tous les employeurs qui emploient des employés non syndiqués. Les dirigeants du syndicat, y compris un M. Hunt, sont arrêtés et inculpés de conspiration. Le tribunal de première instance de Cleveland trouve tous les défendeurs coupables, mais après appel, Lemuel Shaw déclare que l’acte de la syndicalisation et de la tentative de reconnaissance de ce syndicat par la grève sont légal à moins que le syndicat est utilisé des méthodes illégales pour que les ouvriers se mettent en grève.

1864 • Dirigé par la jeune Kate Mullaney, 23 ans, le syndicat des blanchisseuses de cols est fondé à Tro, New York, et fait améliorer les salaires des travailleuses des blanchisseries de $2 à $14 par semaine.

1867 • Les maçons commencent la journée de 8 heures.

1868 • Fondation de l’ordre des Chevaliers du Travail. En 1886, il regroupa plus de 700 000 adhérents.

1877 • La première grande révolte contre le « Big Business » fut la révolte des cheminots, soutenue par la masse de la population. Le 16 juillet 1877, débute une grève du réseau « Baltimore and Ohio », dans le Maryland et la Virginie occidentale qui s’étend à presque tous les chemins de fer du pays. Elle touchera finalement toutes sortes de catégories de travailleurs. Onze Etats furent atteint par la contagion. Arrêts de travail, manifestations de masse mais aussi émeutes, combats de rues, incendies, destructions de matériel ferroviaire, affrontements sanglants, etc… Pour la première fois, des ouvriers non qualifiés et inorganisés étaient entrés dans les batailles sociales. Le mouvement fut élémentaire et spontané. Cependant les masses dirent naturellement leur jonction avec les éléments les plus conscients politiquement, le Working Men’s Party, ou parti socialiste de l’époque, qui, à Chicago et à Saint Louis notamment, prit avec succès la tête de la lutte.

1886 • Tout commence lors du rassemblement du 1er mai 1886 à l’usine McCormick de Chicago. Il s’intégrait dans la revendication pour la journée de huit heures de travail quotidien, pour laquelle une grève générale mobilisant 340 000 travailleurs avait été lancée. À proximité se tient un meeting des ouvriers du bois où interviennent divers orateurs (dont les anarchistes Samuel Fielden et August Spies). Des affrontements se produisent lorsque des grévistes, désirant chasser les "jaunes" embauchés par McCormick pour briser la grève, sont accueillis par les détectives de l’agence Pinkerton et la police armée de fusils à répétition. La bourgeoisie, effrayée par la vague de rébellion, fut prise de panique et décida de frapper le mouvement à la tête, fût-ce au moyen d’une sanglante provocation. Deux ouvriers trouvent la mort et cinquante sont blessés (le Daily News en avait annoncé six). Le lendemain, le meeting de protestation à Haymarket Square se termine lui aussi en drame. 180 policiers de Chicago chargent la foule. Un provocateur jette une bombe sur la masse de policiers, en tuant un sur le coup. Dans le chaos qui en résulte, sept agents sont tués, et les préjudices subis par la foule élevés, la police ayant « tiré pour tuer ». Après l’attentat, sept hommes sont arrêtés, accusés des meurtres de Haymarket. August Spies, George Engel, Adolph Fischer, Louis Lingg, Michael Schwab, Oscar Neebe et Samuel Fielden. Un huitième nom s’ajoute à la liste quand Albert Parsons se livre à la police. Le 19 août, tous sont condamnés à mort, à l’exception d’Oscar Neebe qui écope de 15 ans de prison. Un vaste mouvement de protestation international se déclenche. Entre 1886 et 1887, on dénombre 3000 grèves aux USA…

1891 • Le 14 mars 1891 : à la suite de l’assassinat du surintendant de la police David Hennessey à La Nouvelle-Orléans en octobre 1890, neuf ouvriers Italiens sont accusés puis déclarés innocent pour insuffisance de preuve. Les pêcheurs italiens de la ville célèbrent l’événement, mais au matin du 14 mars, la foule dirigée par l’avocat William Pakerson, force l’entrée de la prison. Deux suspects sont pendus et neuf tués à coup de fusil.

1892 • La grève de Homestead est un lock-out et une grève industriels qui ont débuté le 30 juin 1892 à l’aciérie Homestead Steel Works de Homestead (Pennsylvanie). Le conflit opposait la Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers (AA) à la Carnegie Steel Company. Il a culminé avec une bataille entre les grévistes et des agents de sécurité privés le 6 juillet 1892, qui a mené à la défaite des grévistes et à une diminution de la volonté de syndiquer les travailleurs de l’acier. La bataille de Homestead est la deuxième plus grande bataille de l’histoire du syndicalisme aux États-Unis après celle de Blair Mountain. Juillet : grèves dans tout les États-Unis, dues à la dépression générale et à la montée du chômage : grève générale à La Nouvelle-Orléans, grève dans les mines de charbons du Tennessee, des aiguilleurs à Buffalo (État de New York), des aciéries Carnegie à Homestead (Pennsylvanie) et au district minier de Coeur d’Alene (Idaho)L. Ces deux dernières grèves seront brisées après l’intervention de la milice d’État.

1893 • 25 mars : la loi antitrust est invoquée contre des dirigeants syndicaux. Un procureur de La Nouvelle-Orléans a estimé que le syndicat peut être assimilé à une entente qui vise à restreindre la liberté de commerce, tombant sous le coup de la loi Sherman.

1894 • Le 11 mai 1894 à Chicago aux États-Unis, quand environ 3 000 employés de la Pullman Company entamèrent une grève sauvage, en réaction à des baisses de salaire, ce qui paralysa entièrement le trafic ferroviaire dans tout l’ouest de Chicago. Durant les jours qui suivirent, la grève Pullman devint un conflit social d’ampleur national entre les syndicats de travailleurs et les entreprises ferroviaires. L’American Railway Union (ou ARU), le premier syndicat national du secteur, dirigé par Eugene Victor Debs, se retrouva par la suite mêlé à ce que le New York Times décrivit comme « une lutte opposant le plus important syndicat de travailleurs et la totalité des entreprises du chemin de fer qui concernait quelque 250 000 travailleurs dans vingt-sept États à son apogée. Le président Grover Cleveland envoya les troupes fédérales à Chicago pour faire cesser la grève.

1903 • Printemps : lors d’une grève d’ouvriers du textile à Kensington (Pennsylvanie), Mother Mary Jones organise une marche des enfants pour protester contre leur travail (284 000 enfants de 10 à 15 ans travaillent alors dans les mines, les manufactures et les usines). Theodore Roosevelt refuse de les recevoir.

1905 • Fondation des IWW. Les IWW ont comme principe fondamental l’unité des travailleurs au sein d’un seul grand syndicat (« One Big Union ») en tant que classe partageant les mêmes intérêts. Elle vise à l’abolition du salariat. Les IWW sont connus pour avoir développé le Wobbly Shop, une forme de démocratie en entreprise, dans laquelle les travailleurs élisent des délégués révocables. En 1923, l’organisation comptait environ 100 000 membres actifs.

A Shenectady (Etat de New York), fortereresse de la General Electric et fief de l’AFL, les IWW avaient réussi à déclencher, à la fin de 1906, une grève sur le tas, une des premières du genre aux Etats-Unis.

1907 • Grève générale des dockers à La Nouvelle-Orléans, mobilisant plus de 10 000 personnes, blancs et noirs confondus. En 1907, les IWW se tournèrent, notamment, vers les ouvriers agricoles migrateurs et les bûcherons de l’Ouest, prédisposés par leur isolement et leur instabilité à une révolte libertaire : recours à l’action économique directe, mépris pour toute activité politique, inaptitude à toute forme d’organisation permanente. Ces errants qu’en Amérique on nomme hoboes rejoignirent en masse les IWW et contribuèrent à y assurer la victoire de la tendance anarcho-syndicaliste de Haywood sur la tendance autoritaire représentée par Daniel De Leon. Au congrès de 1908, la « brigade de l’Ouest » constituait à elle seule la moitié des délégués.

1909 • Novembre : début d’une grève générale des ouvrières des ateliers de confection à New York. Plus de 20 000 personnes cessent le travail à l’appel de l’International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union (fin en février 1910). Pour satisfaire aux besoins des ouvriers migrant d’une ville à une autre et d’une région à une autre des USA et tenir compte de leurs conditions particulières, les IWW imaginèrent une nouvelle tactique de lutte : les free speech fights (combats pour la liberté de parole). L’utilisation de la place publique était le seul moyen de faire de la propagande et du recrutement parmi des travailleurs dispersés et isolés, mais qui se réunissaient périodiquement dans les villes autour des bureaux d’embauche, à la recherche d’un nouvel emploi. Les orateurs de rue étaient jetés en prison ; aussitôt d’autres les remplaçaient. Des équipes volantes d’IWW accouraient du dehors et venaient se faire arrêter à leur tour. Ces free speech fights agitèrent tout l’Ouest entre 1909 et 1911.

1910 • Grève des horlogers à New York. En 1910, les IWW s’attaquèrent à l’organisation des bûcherons de Louisiane, Arkansas et Texas. Ceux-ci n’étaient ni des immigrants, ni des migrateurs, mais des Américains de vieille souche, primitifs et violents. Brusquement transformés en salariés et durement exploités, ils furent réceptifs aux arguments des IWW. La grève qu’ils déclenchèrent fut une des plus violentes dans les annales du mouvement ouvrier américain. Mais elle échoua et le syndicat que les IWW avaient aidé à organiser fut écrasé.

1912 • 11 janvier : grève dans les usines textile de l’American Wollen Company à Lawrence (Massachusetts). Les 25.000 travailleurs inorganisés de l’American Woolen Company (lainages), à Lawrence (Massachussets), cessèrent le travail pour protester contre des salaires de famine. Ils étaient, pour la plupart, des immigrants de fraîche date, appartenant à vingt-huit nationalités différentes. Les Italiens prédominaient. L’IWW organise des défilés et des rassemblements qui réunissent 50 000 personnes. Après des affrontements avec la police qui font un mort (Anna LoPizzo, 28 janvier), la loi martiale est décrétée. Un des dirigeants des IWW, Joseph Ettor, prit la direction de la grève. Il la mena de main de maître. La petite ville fut mise en état de siège et Ettor arrêté. Haywood vint le remplacer. Un cortège de 10 à 15 mille grévistes lui fit un accueil triomphal. Il procéda à des innovations hardies. Secondé par une militante de valeur, Elisabeth Gurley Flynn, il organisa la solidarité à l’européenne, dirigeant les enfants des grévistes vers les foyers d’amis et de sympathisants dans d’autres villes. Il fit participer les femmes à la lutte et elles se battirent comme des lions. Il installa autour des usines des piquets intinterrompus, composés de milliers de travailleurs. Il sut attirer l’attention de l’opinion publique en faveur des grévistes. Il s’assura des concours dans la presse. Un comité d’enquête fut constitué à Washington et une délégation de seize enfants, garçons et filles, âgés de moins de seize ans, se rendit dans la capitale fédérale pour décrirer les terribles conditions d’existence à Lawrence. Un de ces enfants traita de menteur Samuel Gompers, venu témoigner contre la grève. Les employeurs finirent par céder. A l’annonce de leur victoire, les travailleurs (fait très rare aux Etats-Unis) chantèrent l’Internationale, en toutes langues. L’effet de cet événement fut immense et dépassa le cadre de Lawrence. 25.000 ouvriers obtinrent, par contrecoup, une augmentation de salaire.

1913 • Grève des mines du charbon du Colorado. Les grévistes de Colorado Fuel & Iron Corporation, propriétés de la famille Rockefeller, sont expulsés des logements qu’ils occupent dans les villes possédées par la compagnie minière. Soutenus par la United Mine Workers Union, ils établissent des campements de tentes dans les collines voisines et maintiennent les piquets de grève. Les hommes de l’agence Baldwin-Felt detective effectuent des raids armés sur leurs campements et des grévistes sont assassinés. Le gouverneur du Colorado fait appel à la garde nationale, qui introduit des briseurs de grève de nuit et réprime les manifestations, aboutissant au massacre de Ludlow le 20 avril 1914. Début de la Grève de la Soie à l’appel de l’IWW. 5000 juifs et juives, récemment immigrés, travaillant aux usines de textile de Paterson, New Jersey arrêteront le travail durant 6 mois au cours desquels 1850 ouvriers seront arrêtés.

1914 • Grève des mines du charbon du Colorado. 20 avril : la grève des mines de charbon du Colorado, commencé en septembre 1913, culmine avec le massacre de Ludlow : le campement de grévistes de Ludlow est attaqué au fusil-mitrailleur par la garde nationale. Treize personnes sont abattues dans leur fuite. Les cadavres carbonisés de onze enfants et de deux femmes sont retrouvés dans une fosse le lendemain. La nouvelle provoque une grande agitation dans tout le pays et les mineurs prennent les armes. Les troupes fédérales sont prêtes à intervenir quand la grève s’essouffle. Malgré la mort de 66 personnes, aucun milicien ou surveillant des mines ne sera inculpé pour meurtre. Les grévistes de Colorado Fuel & Iron Corporation, propriétés de la famille Rockefeller, sont expulsés des logements qu’ils occupent dans les villes possédées par la compagnie minière. Soutenus par la United Mine Workers Union, ils établissent des campements de tentes dans les collines voisines et maintiennent les piquets de grève. Les hommes de l’agence Baldwin-Felt detective effectuent des raids armés sur leurs campements et des grévistes sont assassinés. Le gouverneur du Colorado fait appel à la garde nationale, qui introduit des briseurs de grève de nuit et réprime les manifestations, aboutissant au massacre de Ludlow le 20 avril 1914. Le massacre de Ludlow fait référence à une action de représailles de la Colorado National Guard durant laquelle 26 grévistes trouvèrent la mort, à Ludlow dans le Colorado le 20 avril 1914. Ce massacre fait suite à un long affrontement entre les grévistes, au nombre de 1 200, et les soldats de la garde nationale et les hommes de l’agence Baldwin-Felt Detective au service de la Colorado Fuel & Iron Company. Le campement des mineurs et de leurs familles est attaqué à la mitrailleuse par deux compagnies de la garde nationale, les grévistes répondent à coup de fusil. Les affrontements durent toute la journée, à la tombée de la nuit les gardes nationaux mettent le feu au camp, treize mineurs sont tués. Le lendemain on découvre dans les restes du camp, les cadavres calcinés de onze enfants et deux femmes dans une fosse, les mineurs avaient creusés des fosses sous leur tentes pour échapper aux tirs

1919 • 6 février : grève générale à Seattle. La grève survint dans un contexte de radicalisation des travailleurs américains et plus particulièrement de ceux du Nord-Ouest Pacifique. Les syndicats comptaient alors dans leurs rangs beaucoup de sympathisants de la toute jeune Révolution russe qui travaillaient à ce que le même type de révolution ait lieu aux États-Unis. Lors de l’automne 1919 par exemple, des dockers de Seattle refusèrent de prendre en charge des armes destinées à un général russe d’une armée blanche (combattant les bolcheviks) et s’en prirent aux briseurs de grève qui tentaient de charger les armes sur les navires. Durant ces années, les travailleurs de la ville étaient plus syndiqués que jamais; pour preuve, il y eut une augmentation de syndiqués de 400 % entre 1915 et 1918. Un comité coopératif composé de la base syndicale des différentes organisations fut créé et baptisé le General Strike Committee (ou Comité de Grève Générale). Il agissait comme un contre-gouvernement virtuel de la ville ("a virtual counter-government for the city" selon Jeremy Brecher) rappelant la Commune de Paris en 1871. Les travailleurs du Comité s’organisèrent pour parer aux besoins essentiels des habitants de Seattle durant la grève. Par exemple, les ordures furent collectées pour éviter tout risque sanitaire et les pompiers ne cessèrent pas le travail. Les exceptions à la grève devaient être décrétées par le Comité. En général, l’activité était poursuivie partout où son arrêt aurait mis des vies en danger. 1er mai : émeutes à Cleveland. 9 octobre : grève de la police à Boston : commencé au début de l’année (à Seattle), le mouvement revendicatif pour la défense du pouvoir d’achat des ouvriers atteint son apogée à l’automne avec la grève de la police à Boston et celle des travailleurs de l’acier (350 000 grévistes en Pennsylvanie). Ces mouvements provoquent une psychose révolutionnaire aux États-Unis (Red Scare). L’AFL-CIO compte 4 millions de syndiqués.

1920 • Janvier - septembre, Red Scare (campagne contre la prétendue « Terreur Rouge ») : • Arrestation et expulsion de quatre mille opposants radicaux étrangers.

• Mort de l’anarchiste Andreo Salsedo d’une chute du quatorzième étage du Park Row Building de New York où il était détenu depuis six semaines dans les bureaux du FBI.

• 5 mai : arrestation des anarchistes Nicola Sacco et Bartolomeo Vanzetti, accusés d’être les auteurs d’un hold-up et d’un meurtre commis dans une usine de chaussure. 1922 • Grèves dans les mines de charbon et les chemins de fer.

1923 • 18 au 26 septembre : grève des imprimeurs de journaux à New York. Déclin du syndicat ouvrier AFL, qui a perdu 1,4 million d’adhèrent sur 5 millions depuis 1920.

1927 • 23 août : Exécution de Sacco et Vanzetti, condamnés en 1921, malgré la campagne de protestation.

1929 • Grèves du textile dans les Carolines et au Tennessee au printemps. 21 octobre : Début de la crise de Wall Street. En fait, le taux de croissance est nul dès le premier trimestre aux États-Unis. 28 octobre : L’effondrement des cours s’accélère. 29 octobre : « Mardi noir » à Wall Street (New York), marquant le début de la Grande Dépression des années 1930. 16,5 millions d’actions sont vendues et l’indice Dow Jones s’effondre.

1934 • La première des grèves de cette année de contre-offensive oucrière éclate à l’usine Auto Lite de Toledo, en Ohio, où 3 000 ouvriers fabriquent des pièces détachées pour l’automobile. 900 hommes de la Garde Nationale sont appelés en renfort contre les ouvriers. Malgré une fusillade qui tue deux grévistes et en blesse vingt-cinq, les 6 000 travailleurs engagés activement dans la lutte ne décrochent pas et la Garde Nationale est finalement évacuée. Les patrons cèdent enfin, accordant une augmentation de salaire et reconnaissant le syndicat local comme seul représentant et négociateur pour les travailleurs. 16 mai : début d’une grève générale à Minneapolis. Le 15 mai, c’est toute l’industrie des transports de Minneapolis qui est bloquée par la grève. Les objectifs : adhésion au syndicat de tous les travailleurs embauchés, hausse des salaires, diminution des heures de travail, paiement des heures supplémentaires. Les militants à l’origine de la grève étaient entrés dans une section un peu moribonde d’un syndicat de l’AFL, l’avaient ranimée et, en même temps, avaient tissé des liens avec les travailleurs de toutes les entreprises, puis mis sur pied, un peu indépendamment des structures officielles du syndicat, leur propre comité. Quand la grève démarre pour de bon, celui-ci va s’élargir à un Comité de grève de 75 membres. Juin : affrontement entre des grévistes et la police à Minneapolis. 1 500 policiers et les centaines de leurs assistants, qui engagent la bataille vont-ils avoir le dessous. Période d’agitation politique et sociale : un million et demi de travailleurs en grève en 1934 ; grèves générales à Minneapolis, Toledo et San Francisco (printemps-été) ; grèves dans les textiles en septembre. A San Francisco, les dockers, qui entament leur grève le 9 mai, bloquent 3 000 km de côtes, et voient les diverses catégories des travailleurs du port et de la mer rejoindre leur grève les unes après les autres. A San Francisco, les piquets de grève vont regrouper au coude à coude dockers, camionneurs, marins et finalement cheminots. La formation d’un Comité de grève unifié des travailleurs de la mer viendra manifester cette tendance.

1935 • En novembre, le syndicat AFL scissionne et sa partie la plus combative forme le CIO. Deux ans plus tard, une période marquée par de grandes luttes dans plusieurs branches de la grande industrie, le CIO, qui a été à la tête de ces luttes, a grandi. Il compte près de 3,7 millions de membres, faisant presque jeu égal avec l’AFL pour ce qui est des effectifs.

1936 • A Akron (Ohio), dès janvier 1936, des grèves éclatent contre des sanctions, ou contre l’aggravation du chômage technique. Février-mars : Grèves et premières occupations d’usines dans l’industrie du caoutchouc (Firestone, Goodyear). Les trois plus gros producteurs sont touchés et l’un d’eux, Goodyear, devra signer un accord favorable aux grévistes, après une grève de cinq semaines. Les grèves par occupation se répandent (48 en 1936, 447 en 1937). 30 décembre : grève "sur le tas" des ouvriers de la General Motors à Flint dans le Michigan. Les ouvriers de l’usine Fisher Body de Cleveland partent en grève. Une grève avec occupation de 6 jours a lieu dans une usine Bendix de Detroit, l’autre grande ville industrielle du Michigan. Elle est victorieuse. A Detroit, ce sont plusieurs usines, dont certaines liées à l’automobile, qui sont alors touchées par des grèves avec occupation. Elles obtiennent quelques succès. Mais surtout, on observe une attitude nouvelle des pouvoirs publics, policiers et juges, qui est le reflet de leur prise de conscience que le rapport des forces est en train de changer dans le pays. La police, jusque-là systématiquement envoyée contre les grévistes, reste au large de certaines usines occupées. Et l’on voit même un juge refuser de prendre un arrêt d’expulsion sous le motif que les grévistes étaient à l’intérieur de l’usine sur l’invitation de leur employeur ! La première usine General Motors à se mettre en grève et à être occupée est celle d’Atlanta, dans le Sud. La goutte d’eau qui a fait déborder le vase a été une sanction prise contre un ouvrier portant un badge du syndicat. Quelques jours après, le 28 décembre, c’est l’usine de carrosserie de Cleveland - dans l’Ohio, c’est-à-dire dans la même région industrielle que Detroit et Flint - qui voit les travailleurs s’arrêter et occuper leur usine, ici pour protester contre une réduction des taux horaires. Deux jours plus tard, c’est à Flint, centre n°1 de la production de General Motors, que deux usines se lancent dans le même mouvement, l’une de 1 000 ouvriers, l’autre de 7 000. Rapidement, la grève s’étend hors de Flint et en quelques jours elle va toucher dix usines, dont pratiquement toutes celles produisant des carrosseries. La production de General Motors est réduite à peu.

1937 • Les grèves sur le tas, commencées à la fin de 1936 se répandent dans le pays (400 000 grévistes au 1er mars). 447 grèves sur le tas en 1937 assurent la victoire du CIO dans les industries métallurgiques et automobiles. Les effectifs des syndicats passent de 3 à 7,2 millions dans le courant de l’année. 30 mai : massacre du Memorial Day : la police tire sur les piquets de grèves des usines de la Republic Steel de Chicago et fait dix morts. L’autopsie révèle que les grévistes ont été tués alors qu’ils s’enfuyaient. Violente agression de syndicalistes de l’United Automobile Workers (UAW) par des membres du service de sécurité de l’entreprise Ford, le 26 mai 1937, devant la porte no 4 de l’immense usine Ford de River Rouge, à Dearborn (Michigan), aux États-Unis. L’événement reçut une large couverture médiatique et marqua un tournant dans la lutte pour la reconnaissance de l’UAW. Après une grève victorieuse chez Kelsey-Hayes, un sous-traitant de l’industrie automobile, les frères Reuther organisèrent, le 11 janvier 1937, une grève sur le tas à l’usine Fisher Body no 2 de la General Motors, à Flint (Michigan). Une bataille rangée opposa pendant trois heures les ouvriers à la police, qui utilisa des gaz lacrymogènes et des chevrotines. Les grévistes répliquèrent par des lances à incendie et des frondes, qui lançaient des charnières métalliques pesant près d’un kilogramme. Cet affrontement, connu comme la bataille des Running Bulls (littéralement taureaux courant), se termina par la déroute des forces de police. En février 1937, après une action de diversion à l’usine Chevrolet no 9, la grève paralysa l’usine Chevrolet no 4 de Flint, amenant la General Motors à signer un contrat avec l’UAW. En mars, 192 642 ouvriers prirent part à des grèves avec occupation sur leur lieu de travail et plusieurs constructeurs automobiles, Chrysler, Studebaker et Cadillac, signèrent avec l’UAW. Les ouvriers de ces entreprises gagnèrent un salaire minimum, la suppression du salaire aux pièces, des comités de règlements des griefs, la reconnaissance de l’ancienneté. Des grèves de solidarité éclatèrent chez des sous-traitants de l’industrie automobile, dans des hôtels, des blanchisseries, des grands magasins, des dépôts de bois de construction, des boucheries industrielles et des fabriques de cigares. Lorsque l’UAW lança un appel à la grève générale, la ville de Detroit s’immobilisa. Cent cinquante mille manifestants suivirent Walter Reuther et un immense drapeau américain depuis l’hôtel de ville de Detroit jusqu’à Cadillac Square, où des discours appelèrent à l’élection du candidat soutenu par les syndicats de travailleurs et à l’éviction des responsables de la municipalité et de la police, accusés d’être des pions au service des grosses entreprises.

1941 • Quand des grèves éclatèrent au printemps 1941 pour imposer la reconnaissance du syndicat chez Ford dans l’automobile et chez Bethlehem Steel dans la sidérurgie, dans ces deux cas, elles se heurtèrent à la totale inertie des dirigeants du CIO. C’est sans eux, et même contre eux, que les ouvriers se mirent en grève, stoppèrent toute la production et arrachèrent la victoire. De même, dans une usine d’aviation, c’est contre l’avis de l’UAW, fleuron du CIO, que les travailleurs se mirent en grève pour de meilleurs salaires, en juin 1941. Lâchés par leur syndicat, ils allaient voir intervenir contre eux, pour briser leur grève, rien moins que 3 500 hommes de l’armée régulière américaine, envoyés par Roosevelt. La Grève des studios Disney est un événement marquant de l’histoire des studios Disney qui a débuté le 29 mai 1941 et duré 5 semaines.

1943 • 28 avril : début d’une grève des mineurs. Le Président doit céder (le 3 novembre). 25 juin : Smith-Connally Act sur les syndicats. Restriction du droit de grève dans les industries de guerre.

1945-46 • 3 millions 470 000 travailleurs firent grève en 1945 et 4 millions 600 000 en 1946

1947 • 4 juin : loi antigrève de Taft-Hartley votée par le Congrès malgré le veto de Truman. La loi des républicains restreint les prérogatives des syndicats et limite le droit de grève des employés dans les entreprises du pays par plusieurs dispositions : • Les débrayages spontanés sont illégaux, un préavis de grève de 60 jours est imposé quand l’objectif est une nouvelle convention collective. Aucun préavis n’est exigé lorsqu’un accord arrive à terme. • Le droit de grève des fonctionnaires fédéraux, des fonctionnaires d’états et des fonctionnaires des collectivités locales leur est retiré. • Le closed shop est interdit : les employés ne doivent pas nécessairement appartenir au syndicat pour être embauchés. L’union shop reste permis : les ouvriers peuvent devoir se syndiquer après leur embauche. Cependant les États peuvent interdire les contrats entre entreprise et syndicats dont l’objet est le renvoi des travailleurs refusant de se syndiquer. • Droit au gouvernement fédéral d’interdire/arrêter une grève qui met en danger la sécurité nationale. • Les dirigeants syndicaux sont obligés de prêter serment de non-communisme. Cette disposition est déclarée anticonstitutionnelle en 1965. Nombreuses grèves dans le secteur industriel pour demander des hausses de salaires.

1959 • La crise provoque un vaste mouvement de grève de la sidérurgie.

1966 • La grève des transports en commun de New York de 1966 fut une grève illégale à l’appel des syndicats du transport Transport Workers Union (TWU) et l’Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), suite à l’expiration du contrat des travailleurs du transport de la ville de New York avec la New York City Transit Authority (TA)1. Ce fut la première grève à l’encontre de la TA, les grèves qui frappèrent les transports new-yorkais en 1905, 1910, 1916 et 1919 contre la privatisation des compagnies ayant toutes échoué. Il y eut également quelques grèves partielles menées par la TWU dans les années 1930, mais aucune d’entre elles ne paralysa l’ensemble de la ville. Cette grève de 1966 mènera à l’adoption de la loi Taylor, qui redéfinira les droits et les limites d’action des syndicats du service public à New York. La grève a paralysé tout service de métro et de bus, privant de transport des millions d’usagers.

1980 • La grève des transports en commun de New York de 1980, souvent appelée grève du métro (Subway strike) par les new-yorkais, est la première grève des travailleurs de la New York City Transit Authority (une subdivision de la MTA) depuis la grève de 1966. 34 000 membres de la Transport Workers Union ont arrêté le travail le 1er avril 1980, lors d’une grève dont la revendication était l’augmentation des salaires pour les travailleurs sous contrat. Toutes les lignes de métro et d’autobus des cinq districts (boroughs) de la ville ont été arrêtées pendant 11 jours, jours durant lesquels la ville a perdu approximativement deux millions de dollars par jour en termes de recettes et un million de dollars par jour dépensé en heures supplémentaires pour les employés de la ville. Les sociétés new-yorkaises du secteur privé ont, quant à elles, perdu approximativement 100 millions de dollars par jour, et on a estimé que le taux d’absentéisme au travail était de l’ordre de 15 à 20 %. L’arrêt de la grève eu lieu le 11 avril, la TWU ayant réussi à obtenir 9 % d’augmentation de salaire pour la première année, 8 % d’augmentation pour la deuxième année, avec une réindexation des salaires sur le coût de la vie.

Il y a une importante offensive de l’Etat bourgeois contre les travailleurs et un recul important du prolétariat. Sur le terrain strictement revendicatif, un recul important de la classe ouvrière s’est produit depuis les deux dernières décennies. On peut dater ce recul à partir des concessions (salariales en particulier) imposées aux travailleurs de Chrysler en 1979 et 1980 sous la présidence de Carter et surtout à partir de 1981 avec le licenciement par Reagan de 11 500 contrôleurs aériens en grève.

1981 • Le 3 août 1981, les 13 000 membres de l’organisation des contrôleurs aériens professionnels (PATCO) entreprenaient une grève contre l’agence fédérale de l’aviation (FAA) pour demander une réduction des heures de travail, le recrutement de nouveaux employés et des augmentations de salaire. Deux jours plus tard, sur la base d’une obscure loi de 1955 n’ayant jamais été appliquée et qui interdisait les grèves aux syndicats gouvernementaux, Reagan congédiait les 11 359 contrôleurs qui avaient défié l’ordre de retour au travail. C’est ainsi que commença la massive opération de cassage de syndicat du gouvernement qui se termina par la création d’une liste noire et le licenciement permanent des travailleurs, la saisie des finances de la PATCO et la révocation de l’accréditation syndicale du syndicat.

1982-83 • Des luttes de grande ampleur ont éclaté, comme la grève chez Caterpillar qui dura 205 jours en 1982-1983, mais elles n’ont pas permis de reconquérir le terrain perdu.

1992 • L’émeute de Los Angeles du printemps 1992 fut, selon l’expression du sociologue critique Mike Davis, une « révolte sociale hybride » exprimant des colères différentes et des processus sociaux différents. Il y distinguait trois éléments majeurs : « D’abord une dimension démocratique-révolutionnaire qui la relie aux insurrections des années soixante. Ensuite, un élément de rivalité interethnique qui l’a fait parfois ressembler à un pogrom. Enfin ce fut la première émeute postmoderne pour le pain, c’est-à-dire un soulèvement multiethnique des pauvres de la ville. »

1997 • La plus grande grève qui a marqué la dernière décennie, a éclaté au cours de l’été 1997. Elle a concerné les 185 000 travailleurs de l’UPS (United Parcel Service), le géant de la distribution des paquets à domicile. L’analyse de ce mouvement a été faite à chaud par Charles-André Udry dans son article paru dans Carré rouge n°6, « The Workers are back » « Les travailleurs sont de retour ». Cette grève fut organisée par le syndicat des Transports, l’International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Elle fut le mouvement le plus puissant visant à remettre en cause chez UPS le travail temporaire et les emplois à temps partiels pour obtenir de « bons emplois ». La grève qui avait bénéficié d’une grande popularité dans le pays fut en partie victorieuse.

2001 • Les vagues de licenciements avaient commencées neuf mois avant le 11 septembre. Mais le temps des grandes faillites et par voie de conséquence à nouveau de grandes vagues de licenciements est arrivé l’an dernier avec la chute des compagnies aériennes, d’Enron, de Tyco, d’Anderson, de WorldCom, etc. Dans la foulée de l’attentat du 11 septembre, les compagnies aériennes ont annoncé des dizaines de milliers de licenciements tout en empochant les substantielles « aides » de l’État fédéral. Delta Air Lines qui avait déjà supprimé 13.000 emplois, vient d’en annoncer 1500 de plus en septembre 2002. United Airlines exige à présent que le personnel qu’elle n’a pas encore licencié accepte des baisses de salaires importantes pour les six ans à venir. WorldCom, la plus grosse entreprise de toute l’histoire du capitalisme américain, a annoncé 17.000 suppressions d’emplois en même temps que sa faillite. La méthode de licenciement d’Enron mérite une mention particulière. La direction a donné exactement deux heures et pas une minute de plus à 4.500 personnes pour vider les lieux à Houston. Elle leur a fourni obligeamment à chacune une boîte en carton pour embarquer leurs affaires personnelles et elle a laissé dans le brouillard la question très aléatoire des primes ou indemnités. Le cas d’une ex-employée de WorldCom interrogée par un journaliste du New York Times est édifiant à cet égard. Cara Alcantar reconnaît : « Je pensais être dans le même camp que Bernie Ebbers (le P-DG), à la pointe du progrès technologique. Je travaillais dur et, pour moi, les licenciements, ça n’arrivait qu’aux autres. » En juillet dernier, elle a perdu son emploi, ses 1600 stok-options qui ne valent plus rien et pour couronner le tout, elle n’aura aucune indemnité de licenciement et son épargne retraite constituée d’actions WorldCom n’a plus aucune valeur. À ce stade, cette employée regrette amèrement l’absence d’un syndicat chez WorldCom. Peu après le 11 Septembre le projet de loi « USA PATRIOT Act » a été présenté devant le Congrès et voté presque à l’unanimité (un sénateur seulement a voté contre). Une fois adopté, le « Patriot Act » a servi de fondement pour élargir les pouvoirs de la police et a considérablement limité les libertés civiles. Le Patriot Act donne tout facilité à la police d’organiser des écoutes téléphoniques, de perquisitionner à domicile, d’accéder au courrier électronique, au courrier personnel, aux relevés bancaires et ainsi de suite. Grâce au Patriot Act la police peut arrêter, placer en détention, interroger, espionner et perquisitionner chez n’importe quelle personne suspectée de terrorisme, ou qui peut lui servir à enquêter sur le terrorisme. La notion « terroriste » est une notion intentionnellement extensive, incluant n’importe qui, permettant au gouvernement américain d’accuser de terrorisme ceux qu’il souhaite impliquer. La définition inclut des déclarations vagues et floues, telles que tout individu « qui entend intimider ou contraindre la population civile », ou « influencer la politique du gouvernement par intimidation ou coercition », ou « utiliser un dispositif dangereux avec intention de mettre en danger, directement ou indirectement, la sécurité d’un ou de nombreux individus, ou de causer des dommages substantiels à la propriété ». Ces attendus peuvent très bien s’appliquer à une grève de travailleurs bien organisée, en dehors de leur lieu de travail, ou à une manifestation de masse contre la guerre.

2003 • Mouvement de grève des ouvriers de l’épicerie, dans le sud de la Californie, se préoccupait principalement de la création de nouveaux volets de prestations de santé et de retraite pour les nouvelles recrues

2005 • Grève dans les transports de la ville de New York sur l’avenir d’un régime de retraite pour les nouveaux employés a exprimé une avancée majeure dans le développement de la solidarité intergénérationnelle dans la classe ouvrière sur ces mêmes questions. Du 20 au 23 décembre 2005, pour la première fois depuis 25 ans, la grève des employés de bus et du métro paralysa les transports en commun new-yorkais. Les grèves précédentes avaient eu lieu en 1966 (12 jours) et 1980 (11 jours).

2007 • La grève de la Writers Guild of America (2007-2008), aussi connue sous l’appellation « grève des scénaristes américains », est une grève menée par la Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) et la Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW). Plus de 12 000 scénaristes rejoignirent le mouvement de grève qui débuta le 5 novembre 2007 et se termina par leur victoire le 3 février 2008.

2008 • Une grève sauvage des dockers s’étend dans les villes portuaires de la côte Est. Plus de 15 000 ouvriers de la construction de deux syndicats différents sont entrés en lutte, dans la région de Chicago, pour une augmentation de salaire nécessaire pour couvrir les coûts des dépenses de santé, compenser le chômage endémique et la diminution des heures de travail dans l’une des industries les plus durement touchées par la récession. A Chicago, début septembre, les ouvriers de l’hôtel Hyatt ont organisé une grève d’une journée (tout comme l’avait fait le syndicat des infirmiers) pour protester contre les licenciements et ont demandé des concessions dans leur contrat de travail à venir. L’été a également vu 700 ouvriers dans le Delaware entrer en grève pour la première fois contre Delmarva Power et Conectiv Energy contre des coupes dans les pensions de retraite et la suppression de la « couverture santé de retraite » pour les nouvelles recrues. A Bellevue aussi, les ouvriers de Coca-Cola ont organisé une grève d’une semaine concernant un nouveau contrat de travail les obligeant à payer 25% de toutes les cotisations santé, par opposition à leur précédent tarif forfaitaire ; mais ils sont retournés travailler après que la société eut annulé leur assurance maladie et que le syndicat eut déposé un recours collectif, insistant sur le fait qu’il valait mieux retourner au travail. A Bellevue se trouve aussi l’une des usines Boeing en grève cet été (des usines à St. Louis dans le Missouri et à Long Beach en Californie ont également fait grève), où les ouvriers sont retournés au travail après 57 journées sans aucune modification du contrat de travail proposé par la compagnie à l’exception d’une augmentation de 1$ de l’heure pour certains parmi les plus mal payés. La plus longue grève de cet été (et peut-être celle qui a reçu le plus de sympathie du reste de la classe) a eu lieu à l’usine de compote de pommes Mott’s à Williamson (Etat de New York) où la société a décrété, bien qu’elle eût fait des profits records, que le salaire qu’elle versait à ses 300 employés était non conforme aux normes de l’industrie et a exigé des réductions de salaire de 1,50 $ de l’heure dans le nouveau contrat de travail. La grève a attiré l’attention dans le pays en raison de l’attaque particulièrement sauvage et inutile de la part de l’entreprise et après une guerre d’usure de 16 semaines, isolante et démoralisante, le syndicat a « gagné » un contrat de travail qui maintenait les niveaux de salaire et de retraite pour les seuls employés en poste, mais qui supprimait les retraites à pensions déterminées pour toutes les nouvelles embauches, réduisait les paiements correspondants à la « couverture santé de retraite » et obligeait les ouvriers à payer 20% des cotisations santé et la moitié de toute augmentation au-delà des premiers 10%. Dans les derniers jours de septembre, les dockers à Camden (New Jersey) et à Philadelphie se sont engagés dans une grève non officielle de deux jours contre Del Monte qui avait transféré 200 emplois dans un port non syndiqué à Gloucester (New Jersey), grève qui a été rejointe par des dockers, depuis le New Jersey jusqu’à Brooklyn, qui ont refusé de franchir le piquet de grève officieux.

A Chicago en novembre 2008, les ouvriers de l’usine Republic Doors & Windows (portes et fenêtres) s’aperçurent que des machines disparaissaient pendant la nuit, signe manifeste d’une fermeture imminente. Le 2 décembre 2008, la direction de l’entreprise annonça qu’elle fermerait dans les trois jours. Le 5 décembre, jour prévu de la fermeture, 240 ouvriers, principalement Noirs et Latinos (adhérents de l’UE, United Electrical Workers, syndicat jouissant d’une réputation un peu plus militante que d’autres) occupèrent l’usine et exigèrent des indemnités de licenciement ainsi qu’une assurance-santé. Le 10 décembre, ils acceptèrent des indemnités de licenciement d’environ 7 000 dollars chacun et deux mois d’assurance-santé. La direction accusait la Bank of America de lui avoir coupé les crédits mais venait d’acheter une usine de fenêtres sans syndicats dans l’Etat voisin de l’Iowa. Les ouvriers installèrent un piquet de grève devant la banque et d’autres travailleurs les ravitaillèrent, apportèrent des couvertures et des sacs de couchage pendant l’occupation. Le 13 août 2008, 135 ouvriers du syndicat des boulangers-pâtissiers claquèrent la porte pendant la négociation de leurs contrats. Stella d’Oro, au départ une entreprise familiale chez qui de nombreux ouvriers travaillaient depuis des décennies, avait été reprise par une société d’investissement qui exigeait une réduction des salaires de 28 %, la fin des indemnités pour les heures supplémentaires du samedi et une contribution des ouvriers de 20 % au plan d’assurance-santé. Le syndicat voulut adopter une stratégie légaliste, ne faisant rien pour empêcher les jaunes de pénétrer dans l’usine et les transporteurs de livrer la farine, ou pour étendre la grève à d’autres unités. En mai 2009, les ouvriers proposèrent de reprendre le travail sans contrats et furent déboutés. Le syndicat les persuada qu’ils pouvaient espérer un arbitrage favorable du National Labor Relations Board, organisme de « médiation » du gouvernement américain. La grève se poursuivit jusqu’à fin juin 2009 ; le NLRB arbitra bel et bien contre « les pratiques injustes envers les travailleurs » de la société d’investissement puisqu’elle refusait de négocier avec le syndicat. Début juillet, le jour où les ouvriers revinrent au travail, la direction annonça qu’elle fermait l’usine et le fit.

2009 • En 2009, au milieu de la crise financière, GM et Chrysler ont tous deux fait faillite et ont été repris par le gouvernement américain. C’était une stratégie pour restructurer leurs obligations débitrices, et en premier lieu à l’égard de leurs retraités. Quelques semaines plus tard, une fois les deux entreprises sorties d’affaire, l’UAW est devenu un de leurs actionnaires importants. Grâce à la procédure de faillite, les sociétés s’étaient libérées d’une dette de 50 milliards de dollars envers le fonds d’assurance-santé pour les retraités de l’automobile. Un nouveau fonds, VEBA (Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association, contribution volontaire des salariés à un Fonds pour leurs prestations), sera géré par l’UAW et basé exclusivement sur la valeur des actions de GM et de Chrysler sur le marché. Une chute des actions ou une nouvelle faillite de l’un ou de l’autre laissera deux millions de retraités UAW et leurs dépendants sans assurance-santé et leurs pensions seront réduites ou prises en charge par le gouvernement américain après réduction.

2010 • Fin janvier 2010 à Boron en Californie, 500 mineurs embauchés par Rio Tinto (troisième compagnie minière du monde) furent lock-outés après avoir refusé un contrat qui aurait supprimé leurs pensions, réduit leurs salaires et introduit la « flexibilité » des travailleurs – le tout justifié par les nécessités de la « compétition mondiale ». A la mi-mai, la branche locale de l’ILWU (Syndicat international des dockers) ratifia un nouveau contrat accepté à 3 contre 1 par les travailleurs. Ce nouveau contrat incluait une augmentation de salaire de 2,5 % par an ; pour les nouvelles embauches, les pensions versées par l’entreprise seront (comme on l’a vu plus haut) remplacées par un plan 401K avec une contribution de 4 % de l’entreprise ; les congés de maladie indemnisés passèrent de 14 à 10 jours par an. Dans ce cas encore, l’ILWU avait dirigé la grève sur une base légaliste et purement locale. L’encadrement et les jaunes, protégés par un fort effectif de police, purent travailler pendant toute la durée de la grève, malgré les efforts des travailleurs de Boron pour les en empêcher. On ne chercha jamais à mobiliser le soutien des travailleurs de la région. Le syndicat préféra lancer des appels impuissants lors de l’assemblée des actionnaires de Rio Tinto et organisa des rassemblements de nationalistes américains devant le Consulat britannique.

2011 • En août 2011, dans le nord-est des Etats-Unis, 45 000 travailleurs des télécommunications se sont mis en grève contre Verizon, organisés dans le CWA (Communication Workers of America) et l’IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers). Verizon voulait « ajuster » leur contrat pour diminuer les pensions, changer les règles de travail et augmenter leur contribution à l’assurance-santé en invoquant le déclin du téléphone fixe et la progression du téléphone mobile et de l’Internet. Encore une fois, l’assurance-santé était au centre des préoccupations. La grève fut « suspendue » au bout de deux semaines et les salariés reprirent le travail sans contrat, la négociation continua sans actions sur le lieu de travail ; le CWA prétend que la grève a fait preuve de sa « détermination ».

2012 • Les grèves dans la restauration rapide, initialement parties de New York et Chicago en novembre 2012, ont atteint une soixantaine de villes des États-Unis le 29 août dernier, impliquant plusieurs milliers de travailleurs. Ces actions faisaient suite aux mobilisations tout aussi surprenantes des employés du géant américain de la grande distribution, Wal-Mart, qui connut en 2012, pour la première fois de son histoire cinquantenaire, un mouvement de grèves coordonnées dans ses établissements. A Chicago, grève d’environ 27 000 membres du syndicat CTU (Chicago Teachers Union). Lancée quelques jours après un énergique rassemblement à l’occasion du Labor Day, qui avait mis dans la rue des milliers d’enseignants et leurs soutiens, la grève a commencé avec la mobilisation de quelque 20 000 membres du CTU qui ont convergé vers le centre-ville, bloquant la circulation. Mobilisés en masse contre la privatisation du système éducatif, la fermeture de nombreux établissements dans les quartiers populaires à forte majorité afro-américaine et/ou latino, les réductions budgétaires drastiques et la dégradation des conditions de travail, les enseignant de Chicago ont relancé la lutte.

Lutte des classes aux Etats-Unis d’Amérique

List of strikes in USA – Liste des grèves aux USA

• Strike of Polish craftsmen in Jamestown (1619, British colonies)

On June 30, 1619, Slovak and Polish artisans conducted the first labor strike (first "in American history") for democratic rights ("No Vote, No Work") in Jamestown. The British Crown overturned the legislation in the Virginia House of Burgesses in its first meeting and granted the workers equal voting rights on July 21, 1619. Afterwards, the labor strike was ended and the artisans resumed their work. The House of Burgesses, the first legislature of elected representatives in America, met in the Jamestown Church. One of their first laws was to set a minimum price for the sale of tobacco and set forth plans for the creation of the first ironworks of the colony. This legislative group was the predecessor of the modern Virginia General Assembly.

• Maine indentured Servants’ and Fisherman’s Mutiny (1636, Maine, British colonies)

• Virginia’s Indentured Servants’ Plot (1661, Virginia, British colonies) • Maryland Indentured Servants’ Strike (1663, Maryland, British colonies) • Boston ship Carpenter’s Protest (1675, Massachusetts, British colonies)

• Bacon’s Rebellion (1676, Virginia, British colonies) • New York City Carters’ Strike (1677, New York, British colonies) • New York City Carters’ Strike (1684, New York, British colonies) Eighteenth Century • New York City Bakers’ Strike (1741, New York, British colonies)

• Florida Indentured Servants’ Revolt (1768, Florida, British colonies)

The Emergence of American Labor

By Richard B. Morris

On August 5, 1774, just a month before the First Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia, the ship Needham landed in New York from Newry, England, Captain William Cunningham, master. The ship’s cargo was white indentured servants. On arrival they protested to the authorities that they had been kidnapped in Ireland and had suffered "bad usage" on the voyage across the Atlantic. Whereupon the city fathers ordered them discharged. The servants had gained their freedom, but Cunningham nursed a grudge, and later, as the notorious provost marshal of the British army in America, he confined captured Patriots to atrocious prison ships and jails. The incident of the Needham’s cargo dramatizes how the early American labor market was supplied. It also reveals that certain aspects of the old labor system were repugnant to that free society the American inhabitants sought to create for themselves.

That society was based upon farming, fishing, maritime activities, and a sprinkling of small industries. Even as late as 1789 America was a nation of farmers. The first census (1790) revealed that only 202,000 persons out of a population of 3,929,000 lived in towns of 2,500 or more persons. Recruitment of a labor force, then, was essential to satisfy the needs of farmers and to a lesser degree of the maritime trades, the furnace and workshop industries, and the highly skilled crafts.

Utilizing few if any hired hands or servants, the small family farm quickly established itself in New England, a region favoring Indian corn since it could be cultivated by hand labor, but one where diversified crops were also raised. In contrast to New England’s subsistence farming, the area stretching between the Hudson and Potomac needed a somewhat larger labor force (much of it recruited from Europe) for its commercial farms, which specialized in the production of wheat and other cereals. In the South the planter soon turned to raising a specialized crop for export—tobacco in Maryland and Virginia, rice and indigo in South Carolina. The size of the plantations and the requirements for cultivating such crops necessitated a substantial labor force of both white bound labor and black slaves.

Small-scale industry required skilled and semiskilled workers. Depending on the availability of natural resources, the colonies established glass industries, brick and tile yards, and potters’ kilns; bog ores proved suitable for making castings and hollow ware, and rock ores fed furnace and forge industries. A flourishing lumber industry supported related activities such as shipbuilding and the production of naval stores and potash. New England’s white pine provided masts, yards, and spars for the Royal Navy; the white oak of the Middle Colonies supplied valuable stock for the cooperage industry, and other hard woods of that area were used in the cabinetmaker’s trade; in the South, yellow pine was the principal source of tar, pitch, and turpentine. Fishing and whaling required substantial fleets and thousands of sailors.

Potentially, America was a land of Eden. Labor was in demand to build homes, cultivate the earth, exploit the natural resources of the North Atlantic coast and the interior of the continent, sail the ships, and fish the seas. The colonists quickly discovered that the Indians, the native Americans who had settled the continent centuries before the Europeans, would not make compliant workers confined to settled abodes. The alternatives for labor power were to be found in the British Isles, the European continent, and along the west coast of Africa. Convinced that England was overpopulated, the government encouraged the emigration to America of the unemployed poor and vagrant class and permitted skilled workers to go to the colonies. Gradually, with England’s rise to commercial and industrial primacy by the end of the seventeenth century, the official attitude changed, culminating in the enactment by Parliament in 1765 of a law forbidding the emigration of skilled workers. This was followed in turn by statutes of 1774, 1781, and 1782 forbidding the exportation of textile machinery, plans, or models. Toward the poor, the untrained, the vagrants, and the criminal class the government felt no such inhibitions; they were encouraged to immigrate to the colonies if someone, somewhere, would foot the bill for the passage.

Official obstructions notwithstanding, the importation of skilled artisans continued virtually unabated throughout the colonial years. Nor was the source confined to England. Swedes came to the Delaware, Walloons and Dutch to settle New Amsterdam. To Virginia came Polish workers for the naval stores industry, French to cultivate vineyards, Italians to set up glassworks, and Dutch to erect sawmills. Georgia recruited Italians for silk culture; emigrants from the Germanies shipped out in large numbers to become farm workers and ultimately owners, to labor in the burgeoning iron industry, and to produce naval stores. Irish flax workers developed the linen industry in New England as well as on Maryland’s Eastern shore. The Scotch Irish worked the far reaches of Pennsylvania and the Shenandoah Valley. In the lower South, sizable forces of Greeks, Italians, and Minorcans were transported to British-controlled East Florida.

Attracted by higher wages and the opportunity to set tip an independent business or to acquire a homestead, skilled workers continued streaming into the colonies, down to the moment of war with Britain. In the postwar years, as immigration resumed, American agents scoured English towns to induce trained mechanics to emigrate in large numbers. Tench Coxe, who was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Alexander Hamilton, reported in 1790 that "a large proportion of the most skillful manufacturers in the United States are persons who were journeymen and in a few instances were foremen in the workshops and manufactories of Europe."

Regardless of the lures offered to working men and women to emigrate to the New World, free labor remained in short supply throughout the colonial period. As a consequence, the English settlers innovated several forms of bound labor for white Europeans and adopted a long-established coercive labor system for black Africans. One form of bound labor, indentured servitude, included all persons bound to labor for periods of years as determined either by a written agreement or by the custom of the respective colony. The bulk of indentured servants comprised contract labor. White immigrants, called redemptioners or "freewillers," in return for their passage to America bound themselves as servants for varying periods, four years being the average length of service. This amounted to a system for underwriting the transportation of prospective emigrants.

It has been estimated that the redemptioners comprised almost eighty per cent of the total British and continental immigration to America down to the coming of the Revolution. Virginia and Maryland planters who assumed transportation charges received a head right or land grant for each immigrant. In the main, though, the business was carried on by merchants specializing in the sale of servants’ indentures. Recruiting agents called "Crimps" in England and "Newlanders" on the continent were employed by these merchants. They hired drummers to go through inland towns in England or along the war-devastated Rhineland areas crying the voyage to America; with the help of a piper to draw crowds, they distributed promotional literature at fairs.

On the positive side, it should be said that the redemptioner system provided the bulk of the white labor force in the colonies. On the negative side, it must be acknowledged that it was riddled with fraudulent practices and that prospective servants were lured to detention houses to be held for shipment overseas through coercive procedures which often gave rise to charges of kidnapping. The redemptioners were packed like herring in unsanitary ships; the mortality rate could run in excess of fifty percent for a typical voyage. The survivors, served inadequate rations, generally arrived in a seriously weakened condition. Once, ashore, families might be broken up. Husbands and wives could be sold to different masters, and parents not infrequently were forced to sell their children. The latter could be bound out for longer terms of service than adults, even though they were shipped at half fare. Girls, ostensibly bound out for trades or housework, were at times exploited for immoral purposes.

The transportation of convicts provided another source of bound labor in the colonies. This practice, stepped up in the latter half of the seventeenth century, was spelled out by a Parliamentary act in 1718 authorizing seven-year terms of servitude for those convicted of lesser crimes and fourteen years for those guilty of offenses punishable by death. An estimated 10,000 convicts were sent from Old Bailey alone between 1717 and 1775, with double that number entering the single province of Maryland. Other convicts were shipped to Virginia and the West Indies.

Benjamin Franklin charged that the British practice of "emptying their jails into our settlements is, an insult and contempt, the cruellest, that ever one people offered to another." Timothy Dwight, president of Yale, remarked that the early settlers brought with them "a collection of peasants and servants remarkable for their profligacy." Although the colonies placed prohibitive duties on imported convicts or required ship captains to give bond for their good behavior, the contractors of convicts back in England saw to it that the home government would void such laws. In the colonies, however, employers, finding the purchase of convict labor less expensive than acquiring redemptioners or slaves, were responsible for the continuation of the traffic.

The laws of the colonies added still another source to meet the large demand for labor. Persons committing larceny, a felony punishable by death in the mother country, were customarily sentenced in colonial courts to corporal punishment and multiple restitution. If unable to make restitution, the prisoner was normally bound out to service by the court. A second substantial addition to the labor market came from the practice of the courts, which penalized absentee or runaway servants by requiring them to serve as many as ten days for every day’s unauthorized leave. That harsh law made no distinction whatsoever between runaway indentured servants and absentee free workers under contract, placing the wage earner and the hired laborer in the same category.

Finally, the debtor was an important source of bound labor in the American colonies. Unlike England, the colonies considered imprisonment a waste of labor. Hence, laws were enacted, releasing the debtor from prison to serve the creditor for a period of time sufficient to satisfy the debt. The Pennsylvania Council defended this practice on humane grounds, deeming it "highly reasonable that people fitt for Labour, or Performing any Service by which they can earn Money, should by the same Method make Satisfaction for their just Debts."

Another method, the apprenticeship program inherited from England, had the twofold objective of supplying the labor market and providing training in a trade. The apprenticing, or binding out, could be "voluntary" by consent of parents or guardians, or involuntary, where local officials did the binding out. To get apprenticed to a highly skilled trade was a status reserved for those whose parents could pay the masters a stiff fee. Benjamin Franklin’s father was unable to apprentice the lad to the cutler’s trade because of the high premium demanded. Children were normally apprenticed at around fourteen years of age and bound until twenty-one.

Under the terms of apprenticeship, the master was obliged to teach the "mysteries" of the trade to the apprentice, who promised not to reveal the master’s trade secrets. Colonial apprenticeship indentures generally imposed obligations upon the master considerably beyond those found in English apprenticeship articles. In addition to the common requirement of reading, writing and ciphering, colonial articles normally required the master to provide the apprentice with schooling for at least the first three years. As that paternal-filial relationship between master and apprentice, gradually eroded under the emerging ethos of commercialism, masters preferred to send their apprentices to evening schools to get a general education rather than to assume that burden themselves. Other provisions, like those for clothing, were increasingly converted to money payments.

The white bound laborer dwelt in that shadowland that exists between freedom and slavery. Mobility, freedom of occupational choice, and certain personal liberties were curbed for the term of the indenture. The master had a property interest in the laborer, and except in the case of an apprentice, could sell or reassign him or her for the remainder of the term.

For black Africans a very special system of bound labor evolved. Slavery, it must be remembered, was not invented in the English colonies. For nearly two centuries before the settlement of Virginia, a trade in slaves had been carried on along the West African coast. As the English empire expanded to the New World, slave traders grabbed at the chance to make huge profits from this sordid business. Slave traffic became an integral part of a pattern of commerce, known as the "triangular trade," which operated between New England, Africa, and the West Indies or the Southern colonies. New England rum, guns, gunpowder, utensils, textiles, and food were bartered for slaves provided by West African chiefs. The human cargo was packed aboard ship, chained together by twos, with hardly any room to stand, lie, or sit down. During voyages that sometimes lasted as long as fourteen weeks, epidemics took an alarming death toll.

When the first blacks came to Virginia in 1619, they were treated as bound servants and were freed when their terms expired. In all, there were probably not more than a few hundred such cases. Sometime in the 1640s, the practice began of selling imported blacks as servants for life. In short, this form of de facto slavery preceded legalized slavery. In the 1660s and 1670s statutes in Virginia and Maryland gave slavery its formal distinguishing features, an inheritable status of servitude for life. Soon restrictions on slave mobility, along with a harsh system of discipline, were written into the "Black Codes" of all the Southern colonies.

For the South, this decision to deny blacks the status of white servants was largely grounded in prejudice based on racial difference. Those who justified slavery on the ground that growers of such plantation crops as tobacco, rice, and indigo needed a stable supply of labor ignored the fact that the need could have been supplied equally well by a system of bound servitude. Once established, the "peculiar institution," as slavery came to be called, became self perpetuating. It was an economic system, a system of human relations, and a system of power. Southerners came to regard slavery as essential to their culture, political influence, and economic well-being.

By 1775 the stepped-up slave trade, along with a natural increase of population, had brought the total number of blacks in America to half a million. More than three-fifths lived in Virginia and the Carolinas. In South Carolina slaves comprised the majority of the population. Some colonies imposed prohibitive restrictions on the slave trade, not from humanitarian considerations but out of fear of a huge, unmanageable black population, a fear kept alive by occasional not more than a few hundred such cases. Sometime in the 1640s, the practice began, of selling imported blacks as servants for life. In short, this form of de facto slavery preceded legalized slavery. In the 1660s and 1670s statutes in Virginia and Maryland gave slavery its formal distinguishing features, an inheritable status of servitude for life. Soon restrictions on slave mobility, along with a harsh system of discipline, were written into the "Black Codes" of all the Southern colonies.

Bound laborers, white or black, received no wages. However, at the end of their term, white servants were given freedom dues, which could include clothing, a gun, and a hoe. Slaves were often allowed their own garden patches and in some cases received incentive payments for exceptional work.

Free laborers operated under a system of wage payments as today. In addition to money wages, the employment contract often included food and rum, particularly in out-of-doors trades. An alternative towage payments was a piece-wage system. Piecework was more effective among skilled workers such as carpenters, coopers, sawyers, smiths, tanners, shoe makers, hatters, sail makers, and weavers. Wage earners contracted for employment seasonally or annually, as in domestic service and farming; artisans were usually hired by the day or month. Collectively, these workers were called mechanics, a catchall term covering any one who worked with his hands.

From the beginning, labor was a seller’s market. All contemporary authorities agree on the relatively high wages prevailing in the colonies. Governor John Winthrop of Massachusetts relates the story of one master who had to sell a pair of oxen to pay the employee’s wages. Having done so, he informed the worker that he could no Ionger afford his services. "Sell more cattle," the worker advised.

"What shall I do when they are gone? " the master asked.

"You can serve me and get them back," was the reply.

The age-old refrain that if the high rate of wages were to continue, "the servants will be masters and the masters servants," was voiced by an entrepreneur in frontier Maine back in 1639. Samuel Sewall, noted both for his role as a judge in the Salem witchcraft trials and for his early advocacy of the abolition of slavery, sought to solve his household problem by paying court to a likely prospect. Even in the year 1687, his diary notes, it was "hard to find a good one." Help-wanted advertisements in colonial newspapers offered journeymen (free workers who worked by the day) "good," "generous," or "great wages" and "constant employ."

The labor scarcity was intensified by the lure of available land. The paradox of the high wage scale was noted by the author of American Husbandry, an eighteenth-century book on farm methods. "Nothing but a high price will induce men to labor at all," he asserted, "and at the same time it presently puts a conclusion to it by so soon enabling them to take a piece of waste land."

In 1767 a colonial official reported to the Board of Trade: "... the genius of the People in a Country where every one can have Land to work upon leads them so naturally into Agriculture, that it prevails over every other occupation. There can be no stronger Instances of this, than in the servants Imported from Europe of different Trades; as soon as the Time stipulated in their Indentures is expired, they immediately quit their Masters, and get a small tract of Land, in settling which for the first three or four years they lead miserable lives, and in the most abject Poverty; but all this is patiently bourne and submitted to with the greatest cheerfulness, the Satisfaction of being Land holders smooths every difficulty, and makes them prefer this manner of living to that comfortable subsistence which they could procure for themselves and their families by working at the Trades in which they were brought up."

Thus employers found it difficult to hold free workers to their contracts, as they would turn to farming at the first chance. French statesman Talleyrand noted this condition prevailing long after the American Revolution. He observed that as long as farming "calls to it the offspring of large families it will obtain preference over industrial labor. It requires less assiduity, it promises greater independence, it offers to the imagination at least a more advantageous prospect, it has in its favor priority of habits." Therefore, the opportunity of acquiring good land in freehold tenure was, to many immigrants, a better attraction than higher wages in the towns. This attitude pleased agrarian champions like Thomas Jefferson, who considered agriculture superior to manufacturing as a base on which to build a social and political order. "Let our workshops remain in Europe," he declared.

They didn’t, of course, and neither did skilled workers. Nevertheless there continued to be a scarcity of 1abor. As a result, wages throughout the colonial period stood at a considerably higher level than rates prevailing either in England or on the Continent. In 1700 an unskilled workman in England was getting 1s. 2d. a day, a craftsman 2s. In the colonies the minimum cash wage would be double that. All commentators attest to the relative lack of poverty in America in colonial times and the higher standard of living enjoyed by American workers as compared with their European contemporaries.

Needless to say, the scarcity of labor combined with prevailing high wages gave no pleasure to the employers. However, colonial governments were much more responsive to employers than to labor, and instituted various controls and approved varieties of compulsory labor. Such labor controls had evolved in England under the Tudors and even earlier. The Elizabethan statutes laid down the principle of compulsory labor for able-bodied persons in designated categories and saw to it that those living "without a calling" were compelled to work or were punished as common criminals. In the colonies labor could be impressed for a variety of public works projects, including, first and foremost, road and highway construction and repair. The inhabitants might also be impressed to work on bridges or fortifications, on repairing dams, weirs, and dikes, on clearing a commons, deepening or, broadening a river’s channel, and building a meeting house. The wages for such work were set by the local authorities. In the eighteenth century, workhouses were introduced in such colonial towns as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston. Thereafter, short-term labor sentences were frequently imposed for minor offenses which previously had been punished by whipping.

To keep down both living costs and wages the colonies experimented with wage and price regulation. To the transplanted English who introduced them, there was nothing new about this. Medieval statutes had fixed maximum wage scales. The Statute of Artificers of 1563 had authorized the justices of the peace to fix wages according "to the plenty or scarcity of the time."

With the English precedents in mind and the need of employers uppermost, the colonies had a different set of priorities than Americans have today. Unlike the modern Fair Labor Standards Act, which minimum wages for labor, the colonies put a ceiling on wages and set a floor on hours of employment. Such regulations were initiated in Virginia and England. While the experiments in Virginia in the 1620s were soon discontinued, the Massachusetts General Court, which almost from the beginning set maximum wages, turned wage regulation over to the town in 1636. The Court, never explicitly abdicating its authority in this field, lamented in 1670 "the excessive dearness of labor by artificers, laborers, and servants, contrary to reason and equity, to the great prejudice of many householders and their families, and tending to their utter ruin and undoing." That body denounced the workers for spending their money on clothing which was "altogether unbecoming their place and rank" and "in taverns and alehouses where they idled away their time." Indeed, the colonial legislators supported a set of sumptuary laws, which curbed conspicuous spending, denouncing expensive apparel for workers and extravagant fashions for the wealthy. In 1679 a church synod censured high wages along with Sabbath-breaking, intemperance, gaming, and "mixed dancing."

Neither laws nor church discipline could keep wages down, and wage and price fixing on a broad basis gradually disintegrated in the colonies in the eighteenth century. To have been effective, such controls would have had to be intercolonial in scope; otherwise, workers and products would move to the dearer market. By the eve of the American Revolution only the monopolistic trades—those trades which operated under a license—remained to be regulated. Authorities continued to set the fees or wages for ministers, schoolteachers., chimneysweeps, porters, and such established the rates innkeepers could charge, and fixed the weight of a loaf of bread.

In the eighteenth century something approximating permanent labor organizations or trade unions were beginning to emerge from the industrialization of Great Britain. But in colonial America, as a general rule, the laborer procured the terms desired without having to combine with others. When American workers did take concerted action, it was invariably for a specific grievance and did not result in a permanent organization. The cases where master carpenters set up price scales for their trade are the exception. In certain trades, master workers combined to secure or maintain a monopoly of business operations and to prevent others from entering their trades, but such restraints were rapidly diminishing as the eighteenth century advanced. In the licensed trades, those who acted in concert were generally the employers. They combined with others in the same trade to secure better fees or prices, which were customarily regulated by local authority for the public interest. Today such combinations would be subject to antitrust laws.

At times bound servants went on strike, deserted, or broke the contract of employment. Such incidents were by no means uncommon in the tobacco provinces, particularly in the seventeenth century. An example of this was Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia, a broad based uprising in 1676 to unseat an unpopular royal governor and his administration. Almost invariably such actions were ruthlessly put down by the authorities. Concerted action taken by slaves would be viewed as an insurrection, even though it might be a form of labor protest. Sporadic examples of such uprisings in New York in 1712 and 1741 and in South Carolina in 1739 were crushed with savage reprisals.

Throughout the colonies white mechanics joined forces to protest against black competition, but the problem seems to have been especially critical in Charleston, South Carolina. There, in 1744, the shipwrights complained that they were reduced to poverty owing to black competition. Their protest, supported by white mechanics in other trades, persuaded the town authorities to enact an ordinance forbidding the inhabitants from keeping more than two slaves "to work out for hire as porters, labourers, fishermen or handicraftsmen." This resentment on the part of white mechanics was also evident in most Northern towns. But in the long run the interests of the slave owners, not the free white mechanics, prevailed.

Strikes of white journeymen to better their working conditions, while rare and sporadic, can be found in almost all periods of colonial history, beginning with a strike among fishermen on the Maine coast in 1636. In England, following a 1731 judicial decision based on dubious precedents, strikers could be prosecuted under the common law of criminal conspiracy. However, there are few instances in the colonies where authorities challenged the right to strike. In one case the New York employing bakers went on strike in 1741 and appear to have been indicted but never brought to trial. When a number of Savannah carpenters struck in 1746, the trustees of Georgia back in England decided that an act of Parliament outlawed the action, but there seems to have been no follow-through. The experience would be different in the case of strikers in the licensed trades. Such venturesome workmen could have their licenses revoked or might even be prosecuted for contempt. But, in most cases, masters and journeymen who combined were unmolested by the law, although concerted action by white bound servants was suppressed.

In the late colonial period numerous organizations of master craftsmen sprang up, particularly among house carpenters, to fix prices and wages in the building trades. In addition, so-called "friendly" societies were organized by labor for social and philanthropic ends. In the mother country these "box clubs," as they were called, were suspected of harboring conspiratorial labor groups, but the issue was never raised in colonial America. Many of the leaders of these ostensibly philanthropic organizations were to become avid proponents of American political rights in the struggle against England.

The American Revolution diverted labor from seeking economic ends to securing more immediate political gains. In such a program workers were often allied with their employers. There was no clear employer worker conflict evident either in the Revolution’s preliminaries or during its long and intense course. While a substantial portion of the laboring class supported the Patriot cause, many workers were Loyalists. To understand why there were divisions even among working people, in what proved to be both a civil war and an anticolonial war for independence, one must recognize that there is no simple economic explanation for the American Revolution. It was not an uprising of the proletariat against a privileged class. Excluding half a million black slaves, there was not a significant segment of the population that could be considered either hopelessly deprived or condemned to poverty. On the other band, business conditions were not highly favorable. The close of the Seven Years’ War brought on a depression, culminating in unemployment and an increase in welfare payments. Commercial boycotts, initiated after the Stamp Act in 1765, the Townsend Act of 1767, and by the first Continental Congress in 1774, hit the shipping and importing trades hard. The closing of the port of Boston in 1774 created acute economic distress.

Despite the economic setbacks, there was rising prosperity in the years between 1770 and 1775. Real wages, particularly for unskilled labor, still remained far above scales prevailing either in England or Europe, and trade figures showed continuing expansion. By comparable European standards the position of the pre-Revolutionary artisan, small shopkeeper, laborer, and small farmer had definitely advanced in the course of the eighteenth century.

Numerous combinations of mechanics and laborers, master and journeymen took concerted action in the years following the passage of the Sugar and Stamp acts. Although formed primarily for political purposes, they were in many instances motivated by economic considerations. The bulk of the mechanics and laborers were either initially involved in pre-Revolutionary agitation or were swept along in its wake and became stout Patriots. Workers in the maritime trades, for example, were recruited by affluent radical leaders like John Hancock in Boston, the Browns in Providence, and Henry Laurens in Charleston to burn customs cutters and provoke serious disturbances.

Even before the protests triggered by the Stamp Act, seamen had engaged in numerous demonstrations and riots against impressment . Captains attempting to impress seamen on the North American mainland were mobbed and on occasion even imprisoned and held on high bail pending trial. It is not surprising that a group of radical seamen and maritime workers in New York City organized as the Sons of Neptune. They apparently antedate the Sons of Liberty and may well have suggested the latter’s pattern of organization. General Thomas Gage, commander of the Royal Navy in America, reported that the "insurrection" of November, 1765, in New York was participated in by "great numbers of sailors headed by captains of privateers and other ships." Shortly thereafter he referred to the sailors as "the only People who may be properly Stiled Mob," and charged that they were "entirely at the Command of the Merchants who employ them."

The leadership of the American Revolution was elitist in character. It continued to sound a strong note of legitimacy even while exploiting or condoning riots, mobs, tarring and feathering, and vigilantism. Sons of Liberty made their appearance almost simultaneously, in New York and New England, but they were soon emulated in virtually every colonial town. In Boston a secret group the Loyal Nine (including a printer, a jeweler, two distillers, two braziers, and a master mariner—all employer mechanics) and another known as the Caucus, from which Samuel Adams soon emerged as the dominant figure, joined forces with those of Ebenezer Mackintosh and Benjamin Starr, shoemakers, and Isaac Bowman Apthorp, a leather dresser. They, along with a sizable contingent of maritime workers, demonstrated against unpopular British measures and intimidated officials who ventured to enforce them. In Charleston the mechanics’ leadership allied with wealthy merchants like Christopher Gadsden. In New York prosperous merchant shippers Isaac "King" Scars, John Lamb, and Alexander McDougall kept in the forefront of radical activity; but the tasks were performed by the workers themselves—men like furniture-maker Marinus Willett, by ship carpenters, and a sizable force of seamen.

Significantly, in all three cities, the protesting merchants and shipowners formed a close working alliance with the maritime workers and seamen. Their grievances stemmed from the impressment practices of the Royal Navy. Rootless in many cases and accustomed to settling matters by brawn rather than brain, the seamen proved to be the hard core of the muscular radicals so cleverly manipulated by wealthy businessmen and shrewd lawyers. Mechanics joined the seamen in protesting British practices. They resented the new tax measures imposed by the British government and desired a larger voice in domestic politics in order to put a checkrein on the politics of deference which governed most colonies. The mechanics, from silversmiths to laborers, were a significant force in colonial towns. According to one estimate they and their families comprised about one-half the population of Boston, Newport, New York, and Philadelphia, as well as a majority in the smaller towns. As late as 1774 the mechanics in New York cooperated with other protest groups, including the merchants. Thereafter, with the organization of the General Committee of Mechanics, they functioned independently tinder the leadership of sail makers and coopers.

The demonstrations conducted by these groups transcended mere lawless rioting and assumed a moral and political dimension. They had precise targets for their vengeance and were highly disciplined. They did not commit indiscriminate arson or looting. For example, there were definite political reasons for burning the home of the Boston collector of customs Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson, detested symbol of royal authority and nepotism. Their successors, the "Mohawk braves," hurled the 342 chests of tea into Boston harbor. More disciplined than the Hutchinson rioters, they did not steal any of the detested cargo. The acts were either of a symbolic character, as with the raising of the liberty pole in New York City, or were designed to strike terror in those charged with the enforcement of the law. Mobs seized sugar and rum that had been impounded by customs officials, ventured to attack or burn revenue cutters, and pulled down the houses of a stamp collector and an obnoxious British officer who had threatened to "cram the stamps" down the people’s "throats with the end of his sword." The demonstrations cannot be dismissed as mindless acts of a mischief-bent riffraff. They must be viewed as discriminating protests designed to publicize a political position or to intimidate authorities who insisted on enforcing laws deemed unconstitutional or inequitable.

Since employer and worker had a common political bond which temporarily transcended economic antagonisms, strikes were infrequent during the Revolution. However, economic grievances could trigger protests. This was perhaps best illustrated by the circumstances surrounding the Boston Massacre. Tension was already high as a result of a series of running fights between workers in the Boston ropewalks and British privates quartered in Boston. These interlopers, who accepted low wages for spare-time employment, were bitterly resented. Sam Gray, who had engaged in a fistfight with British privates at a ropewalk, was one of those fatally shot in the so-called "massacre" of March 5, 1770. Killroy, a soldier identified as firing at the crowd, was known to have participated in the fight, as was Warren, another soldier.

The pre-Revolutionary years witnessed a number of occasions when mariners and town artificers struck in protest against British military preparations. When, in 1774, General Thomas Gage sought artificers to work on the fortifications of Boston, not only did the workers of that town refuse to work for the British officer, but New York labor fully cooperated with the striking Bostonians. Then committees of correspondence of thirteen towns adjacent to Boston adopted joint resolutions deeming as "most inveterate enemies" any inhabitant of Massachusetts or the neighboring provinces who should provide labor or materials to the British troops at Boston. Gage was forced to send to Nova Scotia for fifty carpenters and a few bricklayers, and he obtained additional workers from New Hampshire. Early in the spring of ’75, mass meetings were held in New York City to protest the exportation of supplies for the use of the British garrison at Boston. The supply ship was seized by the committee and the crew forbidden to proceed on the voyage.

The relative docility of American workers in pressing their economic demands contrasted with the militancy of workers in England. Writing in 1768, Benjamin Franklin graphically described the lawless scenes prevailing in London, where coal heavers and porters attacked the homes of coal merchants, sawyers destroyed sawmills, watermen damaged private boats, and sailors would not permit ships to leave port unless their pay was raised.

When the American Revolution broke out it was reported that Great Britain had few ships for transport purposes as a result of combinations of workers and sailors demanding higher wages. Strikers slowed down or disrupted production of English firms making clothing for the British army in America; at the same time merchants were accused by the authorities of combing to raise prices of provisions for the army of occupation. Every condition seemed at hand for a coordinated attack by labor on both sides of the Atlantic against war measures of the British government. Such an alarming possibility was implied by General Gage, who reported that "the News of the Tumults and Insurrections which have happened in London and Dublin ... is received by the Factions in America, as Events favorable to their Designs of Independency." English working-class unrest, however, never effectively grew into antiwar activism.

In the conduct of the war in America the British army employed civilian workers and also called upon enlisted men for labor services. When workers struck, the commanding generals refrained from prosecuting them for mutiny. As General John Campbell put it on the occasion of such a strike of artificers at Pensacola in 1779, such "punishment would not answer to the forwarding of the Public Works." The general agreed to overlook the strikers’ "present Unmilitary Behavior" and to forward their wage demands to Sir Henry Clinton, the British commander-in-chief. On these terms the artificers resumed work immediately. Major General Pattison, Commandant of the Garrison of New York, asserted that the existing wage scale induced no one to join the labor force: "We are now in great Want of more Artificers, but none will enter on the present Wages, and nothing prevents those we have from leaving the Service, but the Fear of being tried by Martial Law, as Deserters, which they are threatened with in case they Abscond." And so, on the basis of expediency rather than principle, the British generals in America were forced to waive military discipline and to bargain with their workers over wages.

On the Patriot side, one of the central issues involving labor in the Revolutionary period was the control of prices and wages. When delegates from the New England states met at Providence, Rhode Island, at the close of 1776, they recommended a series of sweeping controls. At the end of January the Providence Convention’s proceedings were laid before Congress with a recommendation for endorsement. In the spirited debate that ensued, radical leaders like Samuel Adams and Richard Henry Lee defended the measures as "promoting Liberty and happiness." Their opponents, capitalizing on popular objections to a revival of mercantilist controls, charged the New England states with usurping the powers of Congress. Congress did not explicitly endorse the Providence program but urged upon the other states the propriety of adopting similar measures. In fact, Congress went so far as to call a meeting of commissioners from the Middle States and the lower South. In response to this summons, a convention held at York, Pennsylvania, considered a recommendation that "the price of labor and of manufacture" be "proportionate to each other," and that prices bear the same relation to wages as they did before the conflict. Opponents of controls argued they would be "productive of the most fatal consequences." Hopelessly divided, the convention contented itself with sending copies of the proceedings to Congress and the states represented.

The failure to agree on a program did not deter delegates from holding another regional convention, this time at New Haven in 1777. Here the Northern and Middle colonies agreed on a three-zone price and wage schedule. Proponents of continued wage and price controls charged the opposition with "an idle refinement of civil rights," while their adversaries resorted to constitutional principles, insisting that any law limiting a person in the purchase or sale of his property infringed "those principles of liberty for which we are gloriously fighting." Laboring people played a significant role in the support of Revolutionary wage and price controls. Quarter sessions courts in the respective states occasionally enforced these controls, but more often it was up to the people, organized through committees of correspondence, safety, inspection, or special town committees. These quasi-official popular groups might at times mete out rather severe punishments, such as expulsion from Patriot lines, whipping, or fines. However, they rarely used these tactics; instead, they relied upon the effectiveness of publicity. They would post in conspicuous places or publish in the newspapers the names of persons found guilty of breaches of the wage and price schedules.

It was a time when speculators and boarders were linked in the public mind with Tories. To the populace these "monopolizes" were considered the equivalent of a "canker worm , vermin," "rat," or "a worse enemy to the country than Burgoyne." In Boston, Joyce junior, a working-class quasi-mythical figure, was described by Abigail Adams as leading a procession of five hundred people, "mounted on horseback, with a red coat, a white wig, and a drawn sword, with drum and fife following," bringing fear to the hearts of monopolizers and profiteers. Violent tactics were used elsewhere when public censorship did not bring about a reformation of conduct. In Philadelphia, a mob, seeking enforcement of a new price schedule and the disciplining of noncomplying merchants and financiers, attacked the residence of James Wilson, the Patriot lawyer who had defended merchants before price-control committees. A number of merchants, war speculators, and kindred souls sought refuge from the mob in Wilson’s house, which was then dubbed "Fort Wilson." As one contemporary account tells it, the "labouring part of the City had become desperate from the high price of the necessaries of life." Armed with iron bars and sledge hammers, they almost succeeded in forcing the house. The mob had actually brought up a fieldpiece and placed it within firing range, when a light-horse contingent belatedly appeared.

Neither the British nor the Patriots effectively mobilized the available labor force for civilian as well as military tasks during the American Revolution. In fact, the impressment of property, particularly of supplies, provisions, and transportation facilities, was resorted to far more frequently than the impressment of labor. The Continental authorities trod gingerly so far as conscripting labor was concerned, preferring to rely upon the voluntary enlistment of mechanics and laborers in artificers companies. In Virginia the State Council refused to endorse Governor Thomas Jefferson’s request that tailors and shoemakers be ordered to make shoes for soldiers. They justified their action by contending that they had "not by the Laws of this State any power to call a freeman to labor even for the public without his consent, nor a Slave without that of his Master."

For both the Continental army and the state militia it was common to advertise for forgemen, nailers, iron, and steelworkers, smiths, armorers and carpenters, and carters and wagoners, or to transfer artificers among enlisted men from regular duty to work at their own trades, with extra compensation. The working conditions, wages, and hours of laborers performing such tasks were not infrequently regulated by the military authorities. Such workmen were subject to court-martial for absenteeism or refractory conduct. Artificers in the armed services were paid lower wages than those prevailing in the open market. "Grating comparisons" were inevitably drawn by the privates in the regiment of artificers.

Less directly the army exercised control over laborers working for contractors engaged in the production of military supplies. Contracts with private manufacturers might stipulate the rate of wages to be paid to artisans. Another method of producing military stores was by the states or Congress setting up agencies to engage in manufacturing. The most famous of these operations was the arsenal set up by the Continental authorities at Springfield, Massachusetts. Other military factories were set up in Philadelphia, Trenton, and Lancaster. To help them out, Congress or the states exempted particular workers from military service or detached regular troops for work in war-connected industries. Prisoners of war were also farmed out to war contractors, a practice the British protested as contrary to the terms of the Saratoga Convention.

Although the American Revolution was not fought for the explicit purpose of improving the lot of workers, labor was indeed a principal beneficiary of that contest. The war offered the free white male a fabulous opportunity for upward social mobility. First, he had a chance to pick up confiscated Tory lands. While those in urban areas went more immediately to Whig speculators, a good part of the rural estates of Tories was divided up according to laws recognizing tenant preemption rights. Second, there were the vast new lands wrested at the peace table, which provided veterans of the Revolution with an opportunity to secure homesteads. The new towns formed in the 1780s and 1790s were typically pioneered by war veterans and their families.

The American Revolution, which was chary about property rights of employers, did very little to mitigate or end the practice of white servitude. True, bound servants might win their freedom by enlisting in the Patriot army, but often over the vehement protest of their masters. The attitude of Patriot employers towards the Revolutionary fervor of their workers is revealed in a May, 1777, memorial by a county committee of Cumberland, Pennsylvania. It condemns the enlistment of servants without the consent of their masters on the grounds that "all apprentices and servants are the property of their masters and mistresses, and every mode of depriving such masters and mistresses of their property is a violation of the rights of mankind, contrary to the . . . Continental Congress, and an offense against the peace of the good people of this State."

The redemptioner traffic, which enjoyed boom years up to the very eve of the Revolution, came to a complete halt during the war itself. At war’s end, however, it took a new lease on life, as immigration from Europe once again surged. What could be done about the redemptioner trade and other forms of debt servitude? Since imprisonment for debt was the law, with the option to the debtor of working off his debt by labor, white bondage in one form or another would survive and in periods of an economic downturn even expand. But the Declaration of Independence seems to have evoked at least one spontaneous response in this area. A New York newspaper reported that within less than a week of its adoption the state’s debtors had been released from prison. That impulsive if generous action was not buttressed by liberative legislation.

So long as debt imprisonment survived, it was possible to enforce a personal contract of labor service, and its complete abolition did not take place in the states until Jackson’s administration. Thus, it was not until the 1830s that one could confidently find an end to white servitude.

Freedom may have been the ultimate prospect for all white workers, but that status was not within the expectation of most blacks. Slavery darkened the Revolutionary skies as a great, brooding omnipresence. Would a revolution overtly dedicated to the principles of equality end this greatest of all inequalities? Some Southerners, like the contentious Carolina planter and ex-slave trader Henry Laurens, asserted their readiness to take positive steps. They would apply the ideals of the Declaration to the slaves on their estates in the face of opposition from "great powers," as Laurens expressed it, as well as by "the laws and customs of my country, my own and the avarice of my countrymen." Other southern Patriots, like Patrick Henry, regarded slavery as a "lamentable evil" and looked forward to the time when it would be abolished. Jefferson tried repeatedly to restrict slavery and even to bar it from all the territories, but he could not overcome sectional opposition to so drastic a social revolution. By the end of the war, slavery already was attaining the dimension of a great divisive issue. Five of the original Thirteen States, all from the North, in addition to Vermont, initiated programs of emancipation before the Federal Convention of 1787; two others followed soon thereafter. These notable actions reflected the strong antislavery impulse fostered by the American Revolution. However, even in the North the leadership seemed unable to plan effectively for the black population after emancipation, while the white laboring classes were less than receptive to the prospect of competition from skilled black workers.

These post-Revolutionary years saw the spread of the factory, the transition from custom work to wholesale order work, and the concentration of workers in certain expanding industries. In part this rationalization of industry was a tribute to tough British competition. Manufactured goods from England dumped on the American market forced employers to improvise such cost-cutting devices as increasing sharply the ratio of apprentices (now called "greenhands") to skilled journeymen and to substitute the factory for the old domestic or putting-out system. Factories required greater capital outlays than did craft shops or home manufactures. As a result, the vast majority of workers came to abandon hope of ever acquiring the means to advance into the ranks of the employer class. They now turned increasingly to the strike as the most potent economic weapon to further their interests and to the trade union as the most suitable form of organization. Typical was a three-week-long shoemakers strike in New York in 1785, followed the next year by a strike of journeymen printers of Philadelphia to protest a reduction of wages. The same year the bakers of Charleston struck to protest a City Council ordinance setting the price of bread.

Labor resorted increasingly to concerted action. Master mechanics formed combinations of their own to deal with striking journeymen in order to secure political backing for business, especially for manufactures, and for broad philanthropic and educational ends. True, no permanent trade union can legitimately trace its founding to the years before 1789. Nonetheless, the frequency of incidents of concerted action taken by labor in the post-Revolutionary period was within a few years to be institutionalized in a permanent trade-union movement.

In each of the major American cities the mechanics emerged from the American Revolution as a significant and well-organized group. In their efforts to strengthen the federal government and to obtain protection of native manufacturers from the severe competition of British imports, labor found natural allies among the merchants. All over America a mercantile labor alliance was formed in the Confederation years. Their supreme effort in combination was to secure the ratification of the Federal Constitution, which promised so much to each group.

In every city of the nation labor turned out en masse to celebrate the ratification of the Constitution by the required nine states. Such a celebration took place in New York City on July 23, 1788. According to a local newspaper account, some four thousand mechanics of that city representing over fifty crafts participated in a giant parade. Heading labor’s delegation were some hundred masters, journeymen, and apprentice bakers carrying "the federal loaf, ten feet long, twenty-seven inches in breadth, and eight inches in height," under "a flag representing the declension of trade under the old Confederation." The blacksmiths marched, followed by the brewers, and in turn the shipowners transported a float on which rested a ship bearing the motto: "This federal ship will our commerce revive, and merchants and shipwrights and joiners shall thrive." Following, in turn, were the coopers, the carpenters, the skinners, breeches makers, and glovers, and the cartmen. The tailors climaxed the procession bearing a banner with a unity slogan: "And they sewed fig leaves together."

Under such harmonious auspices was launched the new federal ship of state. Such unity proved short lived, however. Labor and capital would part company along political lines by the middle of the 1790s, and a series of notable strikes in the following decade would signalize the start of a trade union movement fashioned to meet the changing conditions of labor in an emerging industrial society.

• New York City Tailors’ Strike (1768, New York, British colonies)

• Hibernia, New Jersey, Ironworks Strike (1774, New Jersey, British colonies) • Philadelphia Carpenters - First Strike in the U.S. building trades (1791)

• Philadelphia River Pilots’ Strike (1792)

Nineteenth century

• Philadelphia shoemakers guilty of criminal conspiracy after striking for higher wages (1806)

In 1794 Philadelphia shoemakers organized the "Federal Society of Journeymen Cordwainers" (the name came from the cordovan leather they worked with) in an effort to secure stable wages. Over the next decade, the union secured some wage increases. Through 1804, the Journeymen received moderate wage increases. In 1805 the union struck for higher wages. The strike collapsed after the union leaders were indicted for the crime of conspiracy.

• Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Textile Strike (1824)

• Boston House Carpenters’ Strike (1825)

• Philadelphia Carpenters’ Strike (1827)

• Paterson, New Jersey, Textile Strike (1828)

• Lynn, Massachusetts, Shoebinders’ Protest (1831)

• Boston Ship Carpenters’ Ten-hour Strike (1832)

• Lynn. Massachusetts, Shoebinders’ Protest (1833)

• Manayunk. Pennsylvania, Textile Protest (1833)

• New York City Carpenters’ Strike (1833)

• Lowell Massachusetts, Mill Women’s Strike (1834)

• Manayunk Pennsylvania, Textile Protest (1834)

• Paterson New Jersey, Textile Strike (1835)

• Philadelphia general strike (1835)

The 1835 Philadelphia general strike took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was the first general strike in North America and involved some 20,000 workers who struck for a ten-hour workday and increased wages. The strike ended in complete victory for the workers. Carpenters in Boston, Massachusetts had struck for a ten-hour workday in 1825, 1832, and 1835, but each strike ended in failure. A circular written during the 1835 strike influenced workers in Philadelphia. The circular read "We have been too long subjected to the odious, cruel, unjust and tyrannical system which compels the operative mechanic to exhaust his physical and mental powers. We have rights and duties to perform as American citizens and members of society, which forbid us to dispose of more than ten hours for a day’s work." On June 6, a mass meeting of workers, lawyers, doctors, and a few businessmen, was held in the State House courtyard. The meeting unanimously adopted a set of resolutions giving full support to the workers’ demand for wage increases and a shorter workday, as well as increased wages for women workers and a boycott of any coal merchant who worked his men more than ten hours.

• Lowell Massachusetts, Mill Women’s Strike (1836)

• New York City Tailors’ Strike (1836)

• Philadelphia Bookbinders’ Strike (1836)

• New York City Tailors’ Strike (1850)

• New England Shoemakers’ Strike (1860)

• Molders’ Lockout (1866)

• Anthracite Coal Strike (1868)

• Troy New York, Collar Launderesses’ Strike (1869)

• Lynn Massachusetts, Shoe Workers’ Strike (1872)

• Tompkins Square Riot (1874) (New York)

• Coal miners strikes of 1875

• Great Railroad Strike (1877)

• Saint Louis General Strike, (1877)

• Cigarmakers’ Strike (1877)

• Cohoes New York, Cotton Mill Strike (1882)

• Cowboy Strike (1883)

• Lynchburg Virginia, Tobacco Workers’ Strike (1883)

• Molders’ Lockout (1883)

• Fall River Massachusetts, Textile Strike (1884)

• Union Pacific Railroad Strike (1884)

• Cloakmakers’ General Strike (1885)

• McCormick Harvesting Machine Company Strike (1885)

• Southwest Railroad Strike (1885)

• Yonkers New York, Carpet Weavers’ Strike (1885)

• Augusta Georgia, Textile Strike (1886)

• Cowboy Strike (1886)

• Eight-Hour Strikes (1886)

• McCormick Harvesting Machine Company Strike (1886)

• Southwest Railroad Strike (1886)

• Troy New York, Collar Launderesses’ Strike (1886)

• Great Southwest Railroad Strike of 1886

The great Southwest railroad strike of 1886 was a labor union strike against the Union Pacific and Missouri Pacific railroads involving more than 200,000 workers. In March 1886, railroad workers in the Southwest United States conducted an unsuccessful strike against railroads owned by Jay Gould, one of the most ruthless industrialists of the day. The failure of the strike led directly to the collapse of the Knights of Labor and the formation of the American Federation of Labor.

• Haymarket Affair (1886)

The Haymarket affair (also known as the Haymarket massacre or Haymarket riot) was the aftermath of a bombing that took place at a labor demonstration on Tuesday May 4, 1886, at Haymarket Square in Chicago. It began as a peaceful rally in support of workers striking for an eight-hour day and in reaction to the killing of several workers the previous day by the police. An unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at police as they acted to disperse the public meeting. The bomb blast and ensuing gunfire resulted in the deaths of seven police officers and at least four civilians; scores of others were wounded. In all, seven policemen and at least four workers were killed. Another policeman died two years after the incident from complications related to injuries received on that day. About 60 policemen were wounded in the incident. They were carried, along with some other wounded people, into a nearby police station. Police captain Michael Schaack later wrote that the number of wounded workers was "largely in excess of that on the side of the police". The Chicago Herald described a scene of "wild carnage" and estimated at least fifty dead or wounded civilians lay in the streets

• Bay View Tragedy (1886)

• Port of New York, Longshoremens’ Strike (1887)

• Burlington Railroad Strike (1888)

• Cincinnati Shoemakers’ Lockout (1888)

• Baseball Players’ Revolt (1889)

• Fall River Massachusetts, Textile Strike (1889)

• Carpenters’ Strike for the Eight-Hour Day (1890)

• Savanna Georgia, Black Laborers’ Strike (1891)

• Tennessee Miners’ Strike (1891)

• Homestead Strike (1892) gains national attention

• New Orleans General Strike (1892)

• Buffalo switchmen’s strike (1892)

• Coeur d’Alene Miners’ Strike (1892)

• Coxey’s Army marches on Washington D.C. (1894)

• Cripple Creek miners’ strike of 1894

• Pullman Strike (1894)

• Great Northern Railroad Strike (1894)

• Bituminous Coal Miners’ Strike (1894) Birmingham, Alabama

• Haverhill Massachusetts Shoe Strike (1895)

• Leadville Colorado, Miners’ Strike (1896)

• Lattimer Massacre Strike (1897, Pennsylvania)

• Marlboro Massachusetts, Shoe Workers’ Strike (1888)

• Buffalo New York, Grain Shovellers’ Strike (1899)

• Cleveland Ohio, Street Railway Workers’ Strike (1899)

• Coeur d’Alene Miners’ Strike (1899)

• Newsboys Strike of 1899 (New York City)

20th century

1900s

• Anthracite Coal Strike (1900)

• Machinists’ Strike (1900)

• U.S. Steel Recognition Strike of 1901

• Machinists’ Strike (1901)

• San Francisco Restaurant Workers’ Strike (1901)

• Anthracite Coal Strike (1902) Against the strike, George F. Baer, President of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, enlisted 5000 Coal and Iron Police to guard the mines, claiming that if men were protected from the strikers they would return to work. The Police were “hired guns” legitimized by Pennsylvania’s state legislature; for one dollar each, coal and steel operators could have the governor sign commissions and the Police were endowed with all the powers of the law to enforce the companies’ interests. A man was killed on July 2 by the Coal and Iron Police, who claimed the man tried to climb over a fence when he was ordered to stop. 3000 National Guard troops were called out under the command of Brigadier-General Gobin. 300 strikers held up a train conveying workers and Police to the mines. When the train tried to continue on its way, the strikers hurled rocks and fired their guns on it. The men inside dove to the ground as shards of glass fell on them. Gobin gave the order to fire at will if attacked and the entire force of the National Guard, 10,000 strong, was called into Pennsylvania.

• Chicago Teamsters’ Strike (1902)

• Cripple Creek Colorado, Miners’ Strike (1902)

• Colorado Labor Wars, Western Federation of Miners (1903-1904)

• Oxnard Strike of 1903

• Utah Coal Strike (1903)

• New York City Interborough Rapid Transit Strike (1904)

• Packinghouse Workers’ Strike (1904)

• Santa Fe Railroad Shopmen’s Strike (1904)

• Chicago Teamsters’ strike (1905)

The 1905 Chicago Teamsters’ strike was a sympathy strike and lockout by the United Brotherhood of Teamsters in the summer of 1905 in the city of Chicago, Illinois. The strike was initiated by a small clothing workers’ union. But it soon spread as nearly every union in the city, including the Teamsters, supported the job action with sympathy strikes. Initially, the strike was aimed at the Montgomery Ward department store, but it affected almost every employer in the metropolitan region after the Teamsters walked out. The strike eventually pitted the Teamsters against the Employers’ Association of Chicago, a broad coalition of business owners formed a few years earlier to oppose unionization in Chicago

• Goldfield Nevada, Miners’ Strike (1907)

• Pensacola streetcar operators’ strike (1908, Pensacola, Florida)

• New York shirtwaist strike of 1909 "Uprising of the 20,000" (1909)

• Georgia Railroad Strike (1909)

• McKees Rocks Pennsylvania, Steel Strike (1909)

• Watertown Connecticut, Arsenal Strike (1909)

1910s

• Philadelphia General Strike (1910)

The General Strike of 1910 was a labor strike by trolley workers of the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company that grew to a city-wide riot and general strike in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

PRT responded by bringing in strike breakers from New York City and Boston, notably strikebreakers working for Pearl Bergoff near the beginning of his career as "King of the Strikebreakers". Violence broke out, with trolley cars, tracks and wiring destroyed, police brutality and wholesale arrests of strikers. Given the population’s general dislike of the company for poor service, mismanagement and backroom political dealings, the union felt safe issuing an ultimatum.

On the first day of the strike, Mayor Reyburn dispatched heavy police guard to the trolley barns. The union claimed 6,200 of the PRT’s 7,000 employees walked out. PRT claimed 3,000 workers remained on the job.

It was reported worldwide that one volunteer motorman, "driving his car full-speed through the crowd with one hand on the controller and the other holding a revolver, was dragged from the platform when the car had been wrecked by a spiked switch, and killed".

Mobs pulled down the masonry of a school being built at 9th and Mifflin streets, using the stones to block the tracks and build makeshift bunkers. As a trolley with police guards approached, the crowd of 1,500 cheered, then smashed the car with rocks and clubs. Both police officers were knocked unconscious and an eight-year-old boy suffered a fatal blow to the head. Similar events occurred throughout the city, with tracks, lines and trolley cars destroyed.

A crowd of 2,000 seized a trolley that was blocked by several other cars they had destroyed. After the crew and police were driven off, the trolley was doused with fuel and set on fire. Meanwhile a crowd of 5,000 had blockaded tracks in Center City. When a trolley approached the crew was seized, dragged into the street and beaten while the police watched helplessly. While one officer attempted to back the trolley out, the other fired warning shots into the air. The mob responded with a massive barrage of bricks and stones and the police fired randomly into the crowd. A bomb threat in Germantown was disregarded until dynamite was loaded onto the tracks by a mob of 2,000. In Kensington, Richmond and South Philadelphia, the mayor ordered police to act under provisions of the Riot Act. The mayor called for 3,000 citizens to serve police duty. Amalgamated offered 6,000 union men — "bonafide citizens of Philadelphia (to) preserve peace and order"—an offer the mayor rejected. By 6 p.m. the next day, PRT had ordered all trolleys off the streets while promising service would be restored the following morning.

In stark contrast to the chaos throughout the city, the union leaders enjoyed a sort of victory parade, taxied through cheering crowds to a series of speeches at several locations.

With the union threatening a general strike to hobble the city if strike breakers were brought in, PRT brought in 600 strike breakers, while denying they had done so. Trolley workers in Trenton, sensing the moment, went on strike, shutting their transit company down with a strike that would later fuel the rise of the Central Labor Union.

The final straw for calling a general strike was the National Guard and the Pennsylvania Constabulary entering the city to provide protection for PRT’s few remaining workers. Members of other unions throughout the city saw this as a clear signal that the city and state governments were uniting in favor of the companies against the unions.[3][6] When the well-trained, heavily armed Constabulary failed to immediately restore order, there was talk of bringing in the United States Army or Navy.

With the general population, newspapers, retailers and religious groups uniting against PRT, a general strike was called. All unions in all industries were asked to walk out, in hopes of adding financial burden to the city and PRT.

As city commerce ground to a near halt, the general strike had wider impacts, leading to sympathy walkouts along the East Coast. The public was hungry for reform and vengeance on the hated industries who controlled transportation.

The union’s "scorched earth, take no prisoners" approach eventually brought PRT to the negotiating table, ending the general strike while the trolley walk-out continued.

• Westmoreland County Coal Strike of 1910-1911

The Westmoreland County coal strike of 1910–1911, or the Westmoreland coal miners’ strike, was a strike by coal miners represented by the United Mine Workers of America. The strike is also known as the Slovak Strike because about 70 percent of the miners were Slovak immigrants. It began in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, on March 9, 1910, and ended on July 1, 1911. At its height, the strike encompassed 65 mines and 15,000 coal miners.[2][3] Sixteen people were killed during the strike, nearly all of them striking miners or members of their families. The strike ended in defeat for the union.

• Lawrence textile strike, often known as the Bread and Roses strike (1912, Lawrence, Massachusetts)

The Lawrence textile strike was a strike of immigrant workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912 led by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Prompted by a two-hour pay cut corresponding to a new law shortening the workweek, the strike spread rapidly through the town, growing to more than twenty thousand workers and involving nearly every mill in Lawrence. The strike united workers from 51 different nationalities. Carried on throughout a brutally cold winter, the strike lasted more than two months, defying the assumptions of conservative trade unions within the American Federation of Labor (AFL) that immigrant, largely female and ethnically divided workers could not be organized. In late January, when a bystander was killed during a protest, IWW organizers Joseph Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti were arrested on charges of being accessories to the murder. IWW leaders Bill Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn came to Lawrence to run the strike. Together they masterminded its signature move, sending hundreds of the strikers’ hungry children to sympathetic families in New York, New Jersey, and Vermont. The move drew widespread sympathy, especially after police stopped a further exodus, leading to violence at the Lawrence train station. Congressional hearings followed, resulting in exposure of shocking conditions in the Lawrence mills and calls for investigation of the "wool trust." Mill owners soon decided to settle the strike, giving workers in Lawrence and throughout New England raises of up to 20 percent. Within a year, however, the IWW had largely collapsed in Lawrence.

The Lawrence strike is often referred to as the "Bread and Roses" strike, or, the "strike for three loaves". The phrase "bread and roses" actually preceded the strike, however, appearing in a poem by James Oppenheim published in The Atlantic Monthly in December 1911. However, a 1916 labor anthology, The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest by Upton Sinclair, attributed the phrase to the Lawrence strike and the association stuck. "Bread and roses" has also been attributed to socialist union organizer Rose Schneiderman.

• Louisiana Timber Workers’ Strike (1912)

• West Virginia Mine War of 1912-1913

The Paint Creek–Cabin Creek Strike, or the Paint Creek Mine War, was a confrontation between striking coal miners and coal operators in Kanawha County, West Virginia, centered on the area enclosed by two streams, Paint Creek and Cabin Creek.

The strike lasted from April 18, 1912 through July 1913. After the confrontation, Fred Stanton, a banker, estimated that the strike and ensuing violence cost $100,000,000. The confrontation directly caused perhaps fifty violent deaths, as well as many more deaths indirectly caused by starvation and malnutrition among the striking miners. In the number of casualties it counts among the worst conflicts in American labor union history.

The strike was a prelude to subsequent labor-related West Virginia conflicts in the following years, the Battle of Matewan and the Battle of Blair Mountain.

Activist Mother Jones arrived in June, as mine owners began evicting workers from their rented houses, and brought in replacement workers. Beatings, sniper attacks, and sabotage were daily occurrences. Through July, Jones rallied the workers, made her way through armed guards to persuade another group of miners in Eskdale, West Virginia to join the strike, and organized a secret march of three thousand armed miners to the steps of the state capitol in Charleston to read a declaration of war to Governor William E. Glasscock. On July 26, miners attacked Mucklow, present-day Gallagher, leaving at least twelve strikers and four guards dead.

On September 1, a force of over 5,000 miners from the north side of the Kanawha River joined the strikers’ tent city, leading Governor Glasscock to establish martial law in the region the following day. The 1,200 state troops confiscating arms and ammunition from both sides lessened tensions to some degree, but the strikers were forbidden to congregate, and were subject to fast, unfair trials in military court. Meanwhile strikers’ families began to suffer from hunger, cold, and the unsanitary conditions in their temporary tent colony at Holly Grove.

On October 15, martial law was lifted, only to be re-imposed on November 15 and lifted on January 10th by Governor Glasscock, with less than two months left in office. On February 7 Mucklow was again attacked by miners with at least one casualty. In retaliation that evening, the Kanawha County Sheriff Bonner Hill and a group of detectives attacked the Holly Grove miners’ settlement with an armored train, called the "Bull Moose Special", attacking with machine guns and high-powered rifles, putting 100 machine-gun bullets through the frame house of striker Cesco Estep and killing him. Another miners’ raid on Mucklow killed at least two people a few days later, and on February 10 martial law was imposed for the third and final time.

Mother Jones was arrested on February 13 in Pratt and charged in military court for inciting riot (reportedly for attempting to read the Declaration of Independence), and, later, conspiracy to commit murder. She refused to recognize the jurisdiction of the military court, and refused to enter a plea. Jones was sentenced to twenty years in the state penitentiary and acquired a case of pneumonia.

• Ludlow Massacre Strike (1913, Colorado)

The Ludlow Massacre was an attack by the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel & Iron Company camp guards on a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado, on April 20, 1914. Some two dozen people, including women and children, were killed. The chief owner of the mine, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was widely criticized for the incident.

The massacre, the culmination of a bloody widespread strike against Colorado coal mines, resulted in the violent deaths of between 19 and 26 people; reported death tolls vary but include two women and eleven children, asphyxiated and burned to death under a single tent. The deaths occurred after a daylong fight between militia and camp guards against striking workers. Ludlow was the deadliest single incident in the southern Colorado Coal Strike, lasting from September 1913 through December 1914. The strike was organized by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) against coal mining companies in Colorado. The three largest companies involved were the Rockefeller family-owned Colorado Fuel & Iron Company (CF&I), the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company (RMF), and the Victor-American Fuel Company (VAF).

In retaliation for Ludlow, the miners armed themselves and attacked dozens of mines over the next ten days, destroying property and engaging in several skirmishes with the Colorado National Guard along a 40-mile front from Trinidad to Walsenburg. The entire strike would cost between 69 and 199 lives. Thomas G. Andrews described it as the "deadliest strike in the history of the United States".

The Ludlow Massacre was a watershed moment in American labor relations. Historian Howard Zinn described the Ludlow Massacre as "the culminating act of perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history". Congress responded to public outcry by directing the House Committee on Mines and Mining to investigate the incident. Its report, published in 1915, was influential in promoting child labor laws and an eight-hour work day.

• Paterson silk strike (1913, Paterson, New Jersey)

The 1913 Paterson silk strike was a work stoppage involving silk mill workers in Paterson, New Jersey. The strike involved demands for establishment of an eight-hour day and improved working conditions. The strike began on February 1, 1913, and ended six months later, on July 28. The strike began on March 3, 1913. During the course of the strike, approximately 1,850 strikers were arrested, including Industrial Workers of the World leaders William Dudley Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Paterson’s strike was part of a series of industrial strikes in the garment and textile industries of the American east from the years 1909 to 1913. The participants of these strikes were largely immigrant factory workers from southern and eastern Europe.

• BLE Strike in New York City (1918)

• Centralia Massacre (Washington) (1919)

The Centralia Massacre, also known as the Armistice Day Riot, was a violent and bloody incident that occurred in Centralia, Washington, on November 11, 1919, during a parade celebrating the first anniversary of Armistice Day. This conflict between the American Legion and workers who were members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or "Wobblies") resulted in six deaths, additional wounded, multiple prison terms, and an ongoing and especially bitter dispute over the motivations and events that precipitated the massacre. It was the culmination of years of bad blood between members of the local Legion and members of the IWW. Both Centralia and the neighboring town of Chehalis had a large number of World War I veterans, with robust chapters of the Legion, as well as a large number of IWW members, some also war veterans.

The ramifications of this event included a trial that attracted national media attention, notoriety that contributed to the Red Scare of 1919–20, the creation of a powerful martyr for the IWW, a monument to one side of the battle and a mural for the other and a formal tribute to the fallen Legionnaires by President Warren G. Harding,

• Boston Police Strike (1919)

• Seattle General Strike of 1919

The Seattle General Strike of 1919 was a five-day general work stoppage by more than 65,000 workers in the city of Seattle, Washington, which lasted from February 6 to February 11 of that year. A few weeks after the November 1918 armistice ended World War I, unions in Seattle’s shipbuilding industry demanded a pay increase for unskilled workers. Dissatisfied workers in several unions began the strike to gain higher wages after two years of World War I wage controls. Most other local unions, including members of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), joined the walkout. Although the strike was non-violent and lasted less than a week, government officials, the press, and much of the public viewed the strike as a radical attempt to subvert US institutions.

Some commentators raised alarm by calling it the work of Bolsheviks and other radicals inspired by "un-American" ideologies, making it the first concentrated eruption of the anti-Red hysteria that characterized the Red Scare of 1919 and 1920.

• Steel strike of 1919

The steel strike of 1919 was an attempt by the weakened Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers (the AA) to organize the United States steel industry in the wake of World War I. The strike began on September 21, 1919, and collapsed on January 8, 1920. On April 1, 1919, thousands of miners in Pennsylvania went on strike to demand that local officials allow union meetings. Terrified town mayors soon issued the required permits. The mass meetings whipped up pro-union sentiment. Steelworkers felt betrayed by the broken promises of employers and the government to keep prices low, raise wages and improve working conditions.

The steelworkers were forced to carry out their strike threat. The September strike shut down half the steel industry, including almost all mills in Pueblo, Colorado; Chicago, Illinois, Wheeling, West Virginia; Johnstown, Pennsylvania; Cleveland, Ohio; Lackawanna, New York; and Youngstown, Ohio. The steel companies had seriously misjudged the strength of worker discontent.

But the owners quickly turned public opinion against the AFL. The post-war Red Scare had swept the country in the wake of the Russian revolution of October 1917. The steel companies took eager advantage of the change in the political climate. As the strike began, they published information exposing National Committee co-chairman William Z. Foster’s past as a Wobblie and syndicalist, and claimed this was evidence that the steelworker strike was being masterminded by communists and revolutionaries. The steel companies played on nativist fears by noting that a large number of steelworkers were immigrants. Public opinion quickly turned against the striking workers. Only Wilson’s stroke on September 26, 1919, prevented government intervention, since Wilson’s advisors were loath to take action with the president incapacitated.

1920s

• Battle of Matewan (1920)

The Battle of Matewan (also known as the Matewan Massacre) was a shootout in the town of Matewan, West Virginia in Mingo County on May 19, 1920 between local miners and the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency.

A contingent of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency arrived on the no. 29 morning train in order to evict families that had been living at the Stone Mountain Coal Camp just on the outskirts of town. The detectives carried out several evictions before they ate dinner at the Urias Hotel and, upon finishing, they walked to the train depot to catch the five o’clock train back to Bluefield, West Virginia. This is when Matewan Chief of Police Sid Hatfield intervened on behalf of the evicted families. Hatfield, a native of the Tug River Valley, was a supporter of the miners’ attempts to organize the UMWA in the southern coalfields of West Virginia. While the detectives made their way to the train depot, they were intercepted by Hatfield, who claimed to have arrest warrants from the Mingo County sheriff. Detective Albert Felts and his brother Lee Felts then produced his own warrant for Sid Hatfield’s arrest. Upon inspection, Matewan mayor Cabell Testerman claimed it was fraudulent. Unbeknownst to the detectives, they had been surrounded by armed miners, who watched intently from the windows, doorways, and roofs of the businesses that lined Mate Street. Stories vary as to who actually fired the first shot; only unconfirmed rumors exist. Thus, on the porch of the Chambers Hardware Store, began the clash that became known as the Matewan Massacre, or the Battle of Matewan. The ensuing gun battle left seven detectives and three townspeople dead, including the Felts brothers and Testerman. The battle was hailed by miners and working class members for the number of casualties inflicted on the Baldwin-Felts detectives. This tragedy, along with events such as the Ludlow Massacre in Colorado six years earlier, marked an important turning point in the battle for miners’ rights.

• Alabama Miners’ Strike (1920)

The strike’s first major confrontation happened on September 16, in Patton Junction, Alabama (in Walker County), where strikers killed the general manager of the Corona Coal Company, Leon Adler, along with a company guard. But African Americans bore the brunt of the violence: among many such threatening incidents, black miner Henry Junius was found in a shallow grave outside of Roebuck a few weeks into the strike. At least thirteen houses of strikebreakers were dynamited between September and December. Also in December state troopers terrorized the small black business district in Pratt City with random machine gun fire.

The Alabama State Militia and the state police had been called out by the governor, Thomas Kilby, known as the "business governor". Once on site, state troop commanders typically placed themselves at the service of the coal companies. By February thousands of workers had been evicted from their company houses and left homeless.

• Clothing Workers’ Lockout (1920)

• West Virginia Coal Wars (1920-21)

• Battle of Blair Mountain (1921)

• Seamen’s Strike (1921)

• Great Railroad Strike of 1922

• Herrin massacre (1922)

• Anthracite Coal Strike (1922)

• Bituminous Coal Strike (1922)

• Railroad Shopmen’s Strike (1922)

• Anthracite Coal Strike (1925)

• Stripa Labour Conflict (Sweden, 1925)

• Passaic New Jersey, Textile Strike (1926)

• Bituminous Coal Strike (1927)

• Columbine Mine Massacre Strike (1927)

• New Bedford Massachusetts, Textile Strike (1928)

• Banana massacre (1928, Colombia)

• Loray Mill Strike (Gastonia, North Carolina, Textile Strike) (1929)

1930s

• Imperial Valley California, Farmworkers’ Strike (1929)

• Tampa Florida, Cigar Workers’ Strike (1931)

• Battle of Evarts, Harlan County Mining Strike (1931)

• California Pea Pickers’ Strike (1932)

• Century Airlines Pilots’ Strike (1932)

• Davidson-Wiler Tennessee, Coal Strike (1932)

• Ford Hunger March Detroit Michigan (1932)

• Vacaville California, Tree Pruners’ Strike (1932)

• Briggs Manufacturing Strike (1933)

• California Farmworkers’ Strike (1933)

• Detroit Michigan Tool and Die Strike (1933)

• New Mexico Miners’ Strike (1933)

• Harlem New York, Jobs-for-Negroes-Boycott (1934)

• Kohler Strike, Sheboygan, Wisconsin (1934)

• Imperial Valley California, Farmworkers’ Strike (1934)

• Auto-Lite Strike (1934, Toledo, Ohio)

• Textile Workers’ Strike (1934)

• Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934

• Rubber Workers’ Strike (1934)

• Textile workers Strike (1934)

• 1934 West Coast Longshore Strike

• NewarkStar-Ledger Strike (1934)

• San Francisco general strike of 1934

• Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri Metal workers’ strike (1935)

• Pacific Northwest Lumber Strike (1935)

• Southern Sharecroppers’ and Farm Laborers’ Strike (1935)

• Atlanta Georgia, Auto Workers’ Sit-Down Strike (1936)

• Berkshire Knitting Mills Strike (1936)

• General Motors Sit-Down Strike (1936)

• RCA Strike (1936)

• Seamens’ Strike (1936)

• Seattle Post-Intelligencer Newspaper Strike (1936)

• Rubber Workers’ Strike (1936)

• S.S. California strike (1936)

• Remington Rand strike of 1936-1937

• Flint Sit-Down Strike General Motors (1936-1937)

• Hershey Pennsylvania, Chocolate Workers’ Strike (1937)

• Memorial Day massacre of 1937 "Little Steel Strike"

• Chicago Newspaper Strike (1938)

• Maytag Strike (1938)

• Hilo Hawaii Massacre (1938)

• Chrysler Auto Strike (1939)

• General Motors Tool and Diemakers’ Strike (1939)

1940s

• Ford Motor Strike (1940)

• Disney animators’ strike (1941)

• Allis-Chalmers Strike (1941)

• Captive Coal Miners’ Strike (1941)

• Detroit Michigan, Hate Strike against Black Workers (1941)

• February Strike (1941, Netherlands)

• International Harvester Strike (1941)

• New York City Bus Strike (1941)

• North American Aviation Strike (1941)

• 1942-43 musicians’ strike

• Bituminous Coal Strike (1943)

• Detroit Michigan, Hate Strike against Black Workers (1943)

• Detroit Michigan Race Riot (1943)

• Hollywood Black Friday

• Philadelphia Transit Strike (1944)

• Port Chicago mutiny (1944)

• Kelsey-Hayes Strike (1945)

• New York City Longshoreman’s Strike (1945)

• Montgomery Ward Strike (1945)

• Oil Workers’ Strike (1945)

• Bituminous Coal Strike (1946)

• Electrical Manufacturing Strike (1946)

• General Motors’ Strike (1946)

• Pittsburgh Power Strike (1946)

• Railroad Strike (1946)

• Steel Strike (1946)

• R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company Strike (1947)

• Telephone Strike (1947)

• Longshore Strike (1948)

1950s

• Atlanta transit strike of 1950

• "Salt of the Earth" Strike of New Mexico Miners (1950)

• 1952 steel strike (1952)

• Louisiana Sugarcane Workers’ Strike (1953)

• Kohler Strike (1954)

• Southern Telephone Strike (1955)

• East Coast Longshoreman’s Strike (1956)

• Steel Strike (1956)

• Steel strike of 1959 (U.S.)

1960s

• General Electric Strike (1960)

• Seamen’s Strike (1960)

• 1960 Writers Guild of America strike

• New York City Newspaper Strike (1962)

• East Coast Longshoreman’s Strike (1962)

• Delano grape strike (1965-1970)

• 1966 New York City transit strike (U.S.)

• New York City Transportation Strike (1966)

• St. John’s University strike of 1966-1967

• Hong Kong 1967 Leftist Riots

• Copper Strike (1967)

• Chrysler wildcat strike (1968)

• Florida statewide teachers’ strike of 1968

• Charleston, South Carolina, Hospital Workers’ Strike (1969)

• The President National Strike (1969)

1970s

• U.S. Postal Service strike of 1970 first U.S. nationwide strike of public employees

• General Motors Strike (1970)

• New York City Police Strike (1971)

• Longshore Strike (1971)

• Farrah Clothing Workers’ Strike and Boycott (1972)

• Lordstown Ohio, Auto Workers’ Strike (1972)

• Philadelphia Teachers’ Strike (1972)

• 1972 Major League Baseball strike

• Baltimore police strike (1974)

• 1974 UPR strike

• Bituminous Coal Strike of 1974

• Washington Post Pressmen’s Strike (1975)

• Atlanta Sanitation Workers’ Strike (1977) • Coors Beer Strike and Boycott (1977)

• J.P. Stevens Boycott (1977)

• Willmar Minnesota, Bank Workers’ Strike (1977)

• Bituminous Coal Strike of 1977-1978

• Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania, Newspaper Strike (1978)

• Independent Truckers’ Strike (1979)

1980s

• 1980 New York City transit strike (April 1980)

• 1980 AFTRA/Screen Actors Guild strike (summer 1980)

• Air traffic controllers’ strike/Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (1981)

• 1981 UPR strike

• 1981 Writers Guild of America strike

• 1981 Major League Baseball strike

• Arizona Copper Mine Strike of 1983 (1983)

• Yale University Clerical Workers’ Strike (1984)

• Hormel Meatpackers’ Strike (1985)

• Los Angeles County Sanitary Workers’ Strike (1985)

• Yale University Clerical Workers’ Strike (1985)

• Chicago Tribune Strike (1986)

• Trans World Airlines Flight Attendants’ Strike (1986)

• United States Steel Lockout (1986)

• Major Indoor Soccer League Lockout two-week lockout (1986)

• International Paper strike (1987)

• Professional Football Players’ Strike (1987)

• 1988 Writers Guild of America strike

• Eastern Airline Workers’ Strike (1989)

• Bell Atlantic Strike (August, 1989)

• Nynex Strike (August, 1989) Lasted 4 months.

• Pittston Coal Strike (1989-90)

1990s

• Timex strike (1993)

• 1994 Major League Baseball strike (U.S.)

• Detroit Newspaper Strike (13 July 1995—14 February 1997) • Liverpool Dockers’ Strike (1995-1998)

• 1994–95 NHL season

• 1997 UPS Strike (U.S.)

• 1999 Vieques Strikes

• 1999 UNAM strike

21st century

• Verizon Strike (August, 2000)

• Jeffboat wildcat strike (2001)

• Actors Strike 2001

• University of California strikes (2003)

• Scottish Nursery Nurses Strike (2003)

• 2003 Broadway Musicians Strike

• Southern California Supermarket strike of 2003-2004

• 2004 Japanese Professional Baseball Workers Union strike

• 2004-05 NHL lockout (U.S. and Canada)

• 2005 New York City transit strike

• 2005 UPR strike

• 2006 AK Steel Strike

• University of Miami 2006 custodial workers’ strike

• 2007 Freightliner wildcat strike

• 2007 Orange County transit strike • Hayward teachers strike (2007)

• 2007 General Motors strike

• 2007 Chrysler Autoworkers strike

• 2007 United Space Alliance strike

• 2007 Broadway Stagehand Strike

• SEMCO Energy Gas Company Strike (2007)

• 2007-2008 Cork players strike

• 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike

• 2008 University of California strike

• 2008 American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. strike

• 2008 Sundance Kabuki Cinema Sex in the City strike

• 2008 Bollywood strike

• Boeing Machinists Strike of 2008

• 2008 Republic Windows and Doors sit-down strike (Chicago)

2010s

• 2011 Plymouth-Canton Community Schools Local#6094

• 2011 Verizon workers strike

• 2011-2012 York Region Transit strike

• 2012 Chicago teachers’ strike

• 2012 Bakers Union Strike - Forced the liquidation of the Hostess Brand.

• 2012 New England Healthcare Employees Union - HealthBridge strike

• 2013 The world’s longest strike ended by the hospitality workers at the Congress Plaza Hotel in Chicago

• 2014 Aer Lingus cabin crew 24-hour strike

Une grève en 1946

Aux Etats-Unis,

POURQUOI NOUS SOUTENONS LES MARINS ET LES CAMIONNEURS NEW-YORKAIS EN GREVE

Discours de Farrel Dobbs du Parti Ouvrier Socialiste (trotskyste). Extrait de The Militant du 21 septembre 1946

Vous avez lu les articles de la presse bourgeoise sur les grèves des marins et des camionneurs. Vous savez qu’une vaste propagande bien financée a été déclenchée pour soulever la colère et tourner le peuple contre les grévistes.

Je vais vous dire les faits que la presse n’a pas imprimé. Je vais vous dire qui est derrière les mensonges et les calomnies contre les grévistes et qui est réellement responsable des restrictions imputées à tort aux grévistes.

L’époque électorale est la saison où les bois sont pleins de soi-disant "amis des travailleurs". Les politiciens des deux plus grands partis, Démocrate aussi bien que Républicain, ont graissé leurs fusils électoraux et ont pris en chasse les votes des travailleurs. Ils ressortent leurs vieilles attrapes ‑‑les promesses dont ils se servent toujours dans la chasse aux bulletins de vote

Mais, même avant les élections, les faits se chargent d’éprouver leurs promesses. Pendant que Mead et Lehman, Dewey et Ives jurent de leur impérissable amour pour le peuple travailleur, leur parole est éprouvée par de grands événements et de grands combats.

Ici même, dans la ville de New-York, des dizaines de milliers de travailleurs ont été acculés aux plus acharnés combats grévistes pour défendre leur standard de vie. Ces hommes ‑‑ces pères de famille pour la plupart‑‑ travaillent à deux des plus dangereux et difficiles métiers. Ils sont marins et camionneurs.

Tout au long de l’année, ils risquent leur vie sur les voies maritimes et sur les grandes routes. Et tout ce qu’ils demandent, ce sont des conditions de travail décentes et un salaire suffisant pour assurer à leur femme et à leurs enfants une vie décente et saine.

Le cas des camionneurs

Prenons le cas des camionneurs. Ces hommes n’ont eu aucune augmentation pendant plus de deux ans. Leur dernière augmentation fut de 2,5 dollars par semaine. Quelqu’un peut-il, en toute conscience, soutenir que même les 30% d’augmentation qu’ils demandent puissent compenser l’augmentation que le coût de la vie a subi pendant l’année dernière ? Le Bureau des Statistiques du Travail des Etats-Unis admet que le coût de la vie s’est élevé de 11% rien que pendant les trois derniers mois, et tout le monde sait que ces statistiques sont au-dessous de la vérité.

Les gros propriétaires de transports routiers n’ont fait que voir leurs profits monter. Pendant toute la guerre, et jusqu’à ces jours, leurs camions ont travaillé jour et nuit. L’industrie routière a reçu une bonne part des fructueux contrats de guerre gouvernementaux.

L’industrie routière est protégée par des lois fiscales qui diminuent l’impôt sur les bénéfices avec des clauses qui couvrent les pertes. Leurs impôts sur les bénéfices ont été beaucoup réduits par le Congrès. Ils sont installés confortablement ‑‑c’est pourquoi ils peuvent rejeter avec arrogance les revendications des camionneurs. C’est pourquoi ils peuvent les insulter en leur offrant une augmentation d’environ 5 cents de l’heure. C’est pourquoi ils ont délibérément provoqué une grève.

Qui faut-il accuser ?

Avez-vous jamais transporté une charge de 30 tonnes dans un camion routier géant ? Avez-vous jamais essayé de conduire un camion à travers les rues embouteillées d’une ville, ou de descendre une colline gelée ? Avez-vous jamais aidé à charger 80.000 livres sur un camion, et puis aidé à le décharger et cela après avoir conduit pendant des heures ?

Vous ne trouverez pas un seul homme qui ait fait ce métier dangereux et éreintant pour condamner les chauffeurs en grève. Les journaux versent des larmes de crocodile parce que cette grève paralyse l’arrivée du ravitaillement. Ils hurlent au loup même quand le major O’Dwyer – qui n’en crie pas moins au loup lui-même – admet qu’il n’y avait pas de raison de s’alarmer.

S’il y a des restrictions dues à la grève, qui faut-il en accuser ? N’est-ce pas les arrogants patrons des transports routiers qui essaient d’éviter le paiement des augmentations légitimes ? Si les journaux bourgeois, les patrons et le major O’Dwyer sont tellement inquiets au sujet des restrictions, ils peuvent mettre un terme à cette situation à l’instant. Qu’ils satisfassent les justes revendications des travailleurs !

Mais puisque nous parlons de restrictions, je voudrais vous parler de quelques restrictions réelles que personne ne peut imputer aux grèves. Le peuple travailleur de New-York et de tout le pays est privé de viande. Ce manque de viande est provoqué par le stockage délibéré de la viande par le florissant trust de la viande de conserve.

Les grosses maisons de conserves ont fait de stupéfiants bénéfices pendant la guerre.

Ils ont détourné la viande vers le marché noir et violé tous les plafonds des prix. Ils volaient le peuple carrément – ou lui refusaient la viande.

Maintenant, l’O.P.A. a accepté une nouvelle augmentation des prix de vente, de 16 cts à la livre. Mais le trust qui détient la viande a supprimé le ravitaillement en viande comme on ferme un robinet. Une poignée de multimillionnaires accapareurs privent de viande la nation tout entière. Ils rançonnent le peuple par des prix de voleurs. Mais vous n’entendez pas de cris d’indignation à ce propos dans la presse, ou de la part du major O’Dwyer ou de quelqu’autre politicien du Parti Démocrate ou Républicain.

Les menaces d’O’Dwyer

Et maintenant O’Dwyer en vient à menacer les grévistes. Il menace d’employer la force contre eux. N’est-ce pas cela la signification de ses paroles à l’adresse de Daniel J. Tobin, président du Syndicat des Transporteurs, que s’il ne faisait pas cesser la grève, "il est très possible que des dommages et des effusions de sang en résulteraient" ? O’Dwyer est entré en fonctions il n’y a même pas un an, grâce aux votes des travailleurs. Aujourd’hui il menace de répandre leur sang.

O’Dwyer enfourche le cheval rouge. Il peste après les "rouges" et les "communistes". C’est une des plus vieilles méthodes pour essayer de salir les ouvriers en grève.

La grosse majorité des camionneurs a rejeté le compromis proposé par O’Dwyer. Ils ne sont pas en grève pour le plaisir de perdre leur paye. Ils n’opposent pas une telle résistance parce que des communistes ou quelqu’un d’autre les y a invités par un tract. Les hurlements de O’Dwyer sur les "communistes" sont une insulte non seulement à l’intelligence des camionneurs, mais pour tout le peuple travailleur de New-York.

Si par "communistes" O’Dwyer entend les staliniens du P.C. ‑‑n’a-t-il pas lui-même bien accueilli leur appui et leurs votes aux élections de novembre 1945 ?

Le cas des marins est un autre exemple du double jeu et de l’injustice à l’égard des travailleurs. Dans ce cas, une Commission nommée par le Président Truman a essayé de diminuer les augmentations accordées par les propriétaires des navires eux-mêmes.

Plus de 6.000 hommes de la Marine marchande sont morts en mer durant la guerre. La récompense des survivants fut une diminution de 45 dollars par mois après le jour V. Les armateurs, en récompense, reçurent des centaines de millions de dollars du gouvernement.

... Permettez-moi de dire aux camionneurs, aux marins, à leurs familles : Votre cause est juste ! Vous avez droit à l’appui de tout honnête homme ! Tenez bon ! Votre lutte est la lutte de tous les travailleurs !

3 Forum messages

  • Au début du mois d’août 1981, Ronald Reagan, à la Maison Blanche depuis quelques mois seulement, doit faire face à une grève massive des contrôleurs aériens. Sa réponse est pour le moins radicale.

    Retour le 4 aout 1981 aux Etats-Unis où des millions d’Américains n’ont pas pu prendre leur avion…

    Plus de la moitié du trafic aérien est touché par cette grève des contrôleurs. Environ 13.000 des 15.000 membres du syndicat des contrôleurs respectent pour l’instant cet arrêt de travail.

    Cette grève a été déclenchée la veille, le 3 août à l’instigation du syndicat des contrôleurs aériens, le PATCO qui réclame après des semaines de négociations des hausses de salaires et la semaine de 32 heures.

    En poste depuis 6 mois seulement, Ronald Reagan qui s’est présenté aux Américains comme un adversaire résolu de l’Etat (souvenez-vous de son: "L’Etat n’est pas la solution à nos problèmes, l’Etat c’est le problème lui-même") n’a pas l’intention de se laisser faire. Il n’est pas question qu’il cède face à ce syndicat, d’autant qu’il leur a déjà accordé des hausses de salaires.

    Considérant cette grève comme illégale, depuis la Maison Blanche, le président républicain surprend tout le monde par une annonce qui ferait bondir ceux qui réclament un dialogue social :

    "Permettez-moi de lire le serment solennel pris par chacun de ces employés quand ils ont accepté leur emploi : "Je ne participe pas à une grève contre le gouvernement des États-Unis ou tout organisme de celui-ci, et je n’y participerai pas tant que je suis employé du gouvernement des États-Unis ou d’une de ses agences." C’est pour cette raison que je dois dire à ceux qui ne se sont pas présentés au travail ce matin qu’ils violent la loi de la loi et s’ils ne se présentent pas au travail dans les 48 heures, ils auront perdu leur emploi et leurs contrats seront résiliés."

    En ressortant une loi oubliée de 1955 interdisant aux syndicats dits gouvernementaux de faire grève, Reagan s’autorise à briser définitivement la grève et à décourager les futurs mouvements. Le syndicat croit à un bluff du président, mais l’inimaginable se produit. Ce sont précisément 11.359 salariés qui sont licenciés, remplacés immédiatement par des militaires le temps de former de nouveaux contrôleurs aériens, plus dociles ceux-ci.

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  • International Workers’ Day – Honor the Past, Fight for the Future

    For working people today it might be hard to imagine people coming together to fight and change things. This is because there is a history of struggle that doesn’t get taught in our schools, doesn’t get made into movies or T.V. shows. It is intentionally hidden from us. One of the major battles in our history was when tens of thousands of workers came together all over the U.S. to fight for the eight hour workday. For many workers, the struggle was not simply a matter of getting more time to relax. It was a step toward changing the whole world!

    In the 1880s, people worked in oppressive conditions, up to 16 hours per day! Many workers faced racism because they were immigrants from Eastern Europe, Italy, Germany and other countries.

    By 1886, a massive campaign was gaining momentum to win the eight hour workday. Workers all over the U.S. were talking about the idea of a general strike to shut down all industry. At this time, unions were more like underground networks that had to operate in secrecy for much of the time. In Chicago, some workers formed armed self-defense groups to stand up to the bosses’ intimidation. In spite of massive propaganda and police repression, there were over 1,400 strikes for the eight hour day, involving half a million workers, particularly in the Midwest and East Coast. In many strikes there was solidarity between black and white workers.

    On May 1st, tens of thousands of workers went out on strike and tens of thousands more demonstrated in the streets to show support. Over the next days, 340,000 workers stopped work in 12,000 workplaces around the country. On the 3rd, Chicago police fired into a mass meeting, killing four workers and wounding 200. Workers stood their ground and battled the police.

    The next night, there was a mass demonstration of 3,000 at Haymarket Square to protest the police brutality. At the very end of the protest, dynamite suddenly exploded among the police, killing seven and wounding dozens more. In response, the police fired into the crowd. It is unclear who was responsible for the dynamite, but the ruling class saw the explosive nature of a united working class movement. They were terrified.

    Many workers were inspired by revolutionary ideas. For them, the struggle was linked to a vision of transforming society into one where working people are in charge – socialism. This was the perspective of the leaders of the eight hour movement, especially in Chicago. The ruling class felt that it needed to eliminate these leaders and the ideas they stood for.

    All over the country, these radicals became the scapegoat for the violence by the media. The mayor of Chicago declared martial law, raided radical organizations and arrested hundreds. Without a shred of evidence, eight of the leaders were declared guilty of the bombing with seven to be hung and one to serve a long sentence. After the repression, two were pardoned, but one killed himself in jail and four were hung. Their funeral drew twenty-five thousand workers to honor them.

    Some reforms for shorter workdays and better conditions were won, but many were not. However workers all over learned from the experience of open class warfare. This experience showed workers the potential power that was in their hands.

    May 1st was declared to be International Workers Day. Although it may not have a big impact in the U.S. today, it is celebrated by masses of working people all over the world. In 2006, over one million immigrant workers reclaimed May Day and demonstrated against a law that would further criminalize them. May Day is a day to honor the struggles of the past and fight for the future.

    Today, working people are still facing long hours, low wages and oppressive working conditions. We still need to fight – for better conditions and ultimately change the whole world!

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  • C’était un matin d’avril 1913l, un lendemain de Pâques, cette fête que célébraient nombre des immigrés grecs de Ludlow (Colorado). Trois membres de la garde nationale étaient venus ordonner la libération d’un homme prétendument retenu contre son gré. Louis Tikas, le responsable du camp, s’était alors rendu à la gare, distante d’un kilomètre, afin de rencontrer le commandant du détachement. Pendant leur rencontre, deux compagnies installèrent des canons sur une crête dominant le camp de mineurs. Tikas sentit le coup fourré et retourna auprès des siens. Le feu fut déclenché peu après.

    Après plusieurs mois de grève dans les mines de Ludlow au Colorado, appartenant 
à Rockefeller, la garde nationale et des nervis payés par les patrons de 
la mine attaquent le camp retranché des mineurs. Une des plus violentes lutte entre les travailleurs et le capital dans l’histoire des États-Unis…

    La bataille dura toute la journée. Des gardes sans uniforme, payés par les patrons de la mine, vinrent renforcer les miliciens du lieutenant Karl Linderfelt. Alors que le soleil se couchait, le passage d’un train permit à un certain nombre de mineurs de prendre la fuite. Quelques minutes plus tard, la soldatesque s’empara du camp. Louis Tikas fut arrêté en compagnie de deux autres mineurs. Son corps fut retrouvé le long de la ligne de chemin de fer. Il avait été abattu dans le dos. Sa dépouille resta trois jours de suite à la vue de tous, passagers des trains qui circulaient et résidents. Il fallait faire un exemple. Avec le leader syndicaliste, deux femmes, douze enfants, cinq mineurs et syndicalistes et un garde furent tués ce 20 avril 1914 à Ludlow, terme, selon Howard Zinn, de l’une 
des « plus amères et violentes luttes entre les travailleurs et le capital dans l’histoire de ce pays ».

    Tout avait commencé en septembre 1913. Les 1 100 mineurs de la Colorado Fuel and Iron Corporation, détenue par la famille Rockefeller, se mirent en grève après le meurtre d’un syndicaliste. Ils ajoutèrent à leurs revendications une augmentation des salaires, la journée de huit heures de travail, la reconnaissance du syndicat et la fin du contrôle total de leur vie par la compagnie, qui en fit aussitôt démonstration, en les expulsant de leurs baraquements. Avec l’aide du Syndicat uni des mineurs (United Mine Workers Union), les grévistes dressèrent alors des tentes sur les collines voisines. Rockefeller embaucha les cerbères de l’agence de « détectives » Baldwin-Felts, spécialisée, tout comme l’agence Pinkerton, dans la répression syndicale. Une première « descente » échoua à briser le mouvement, malgré plusieurs morts dans le camp des grévistes. Le milliardaire Rockefeller se tourna alors vers « notre cher petit cow-boy de gouverneur » qui, ni une ni deux, fit appel à la garde nationale, 
créée en 1903. Les grévistes l’accueillirent avec acclamations et drapeaux au vent. Ils pensaient que la réserve de l’armée des États-Unis était venue pour les protéger… Ils déchantèrent rapidement lorsque les soldats attaquèrent le camp, arrêtèrent des centaines de mineurs et les firent parader, comme des prises de guerre, dans les rues de Trinidad, la ville la plus proche. Le mouvement tint pourtant bon tout l’hiver, jusqu’au 20 avril 1914, où il fut décidé d’en finir avec ces ouvriers rebelles. La réaction au massacre de Ludlow fut immédiate. À Denver, le syndicat des mineurs lança un « appel aux armes ». Trois cents mineurs rescapés s’armèrent et, à Ludlow, coupèrent 
le téléphone et le télégraphe, se préparant à la bataille. Les cheminots refusèrent d’emmener les soldats sur place, tandis qu’à Denver, ce sont des soldats eux-mêmes qui mirent l’arme au pied.

    À Trinidad, la colère des mineurs dégénéra. Après les funérailles des victimes du massacre, des mineurs se rendirent dans les mines, firent exploser des puits et tuèrent plusieurs gardes. 
À Denver, le syndicat de l’industrie du tabac vota l’envoi de membres à Ludlow, tandis que des syndiquées de celui du textile se transformèrent en infirmières. L’affaire devint nationale mais un autre événement l’étouffa  : le bombardement de la ville mexicaine de Vera Cruz par l’armée américaine. « La ferveur patriotique et l’esprit militariste pouvaient-ils dissimuler la lutte des classes », s’interrogeait Howard Zinn dans son Histoire populaire des États-Unis. La réponse fut, semble-t-il, positive. Au final, des troupes fédérales furent dépêchées à Ludlow sur ordre du président Woodrow Wilson. Faute d’argent, le mouvement de grève périclita en décembre. Il y eut une enquête parlementaire, des milliers de pages de témoignages. Les soldats de la garde nationale, traduits en cour martiale, furent acquittés. Les grévistes furent remplacés par de nouveaux ouvriers. Sur le Vieux Continent, un autre siècle avait déjà commencé dans les tranchées de la Première Guerre mondiale, un siècle qui fut aussi celui de la reconnaissance des droits des salariés portés par les mineurs de Ludlow.

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