The Strike

This year, the term
“strike” turned 250 years-old. Of course, the word was around well before 250
years ago (as were work stoppages), but 1768 was the first year the term
“strike” was used to describe a collective work stoppage.

did it come from?

According to an article
in Jacobin magazine, the term originated during coal-heaver and sailor strikes
in London in 1768.  In contributing the
term, the sailors played a part in history, larger than any they could have
imagined at the time.

The term came from the
act of “striking”, which describe a situation where sailors would remove the
topsails of their ships, rendering the ships motionless.
In 1768, the sailors won pay raises by striking their
sails and marching with drums passed establishments that sold things the
sailors could not afford on their pre-strike wages. Inspired by the sailors,
coal heavers also used the strike and, in 1768, secured agreement on better

The Strike today

strike today is as important as ever, with strikes occurring the world over. Just
this year, for instance, a major rail strike in France has been used to protest
government plans that union(s) say will lead to privatization. Also, in
Germany, IG-Metall, Germany’s largest union with some 2.3 million members, used
24-hour strikes to successfully
a pay increase of 4.3% and the right to a 28-hour work week. And
in Canada, CP Railway workers have recently used
the threat of strike action in their negotiations with the company.

is to name only a few instances of strike activity around the world. No matter
how you look at it, the strike remains a powerful tool for workers in seeking
fair compensation and benefits for their labours.

years and the “strike” is still the go-to verb for collective work stoppage. Workers
have long known that the strength of their bargaining position comes from
solidarity and the ability to remove their labour. This was as true 250 years
ago as it is today, proving once more that time may erode even the greatest
empires, but it can’t destroy an idea.

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