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25 Strikes That Really Got the Point Across


When tensions between employees and management arise, it can often result in work stoppage called “strikes.” The disagreements that usually stem from a labor union’s demand for higher wages and better working conditions oftentimes result in power struggles of epic proportions that end not only in mass firings of employees, but in bloodshed as well. Here is a list of 25 strikes that really got the point across when the management and union workers failed to reach a deal.

25. Royal Mail Industrial Dispute (2009)

Starting in the summer of 2009 and continuing for a year, the strike left millions of mail packages undelivered. Basically Royal Mail was planning to start replacing some jobs with machines but they wouldn’t come clean about the exact agenda. Eventually, however, a compromise was reached.

24. Boeing Strike (2008)

When unionized machinists working for Boeing commercial aircraft assembly plants went on an eight-week strike in September 2008, it was reported that the company lost more than $2 billion in profits. Apparently Boeing is used to it though as this is their third major strike in the last 13 years.

23. Southern California Grocery Stores Strikes (2003)

The four-month strike of the 7,000 member United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) resulted in a collective $2 billion loss for three major grocery chains. Over 900 stores of Vons, Ralphs, and Albertsons were affected as demonstrators fought for healthcare and retirement benefits for workers. The strike ended in a compromise.

22. UPS Workers Strike (1997)

With more than 185,000 UPS Teamsters walking out on the United Parcel Service (UPS), the company lost nearly $600 million dollars before they agreed to start hiring full time.

21. Greyhound Bus Strikes (1990)

Nearly 10,000 Greyhound bus drivers and other office workers walked out on the company in 1990 as a protest for their stagnant wages. The three-year strike initially stranded thousands of passengers across the country and also forced the company to spend $20 million to train replacement drivers from private security firms. As the company’s earnings plummeted by as much as 30%, it almost drove the company into bankruptcy. In the end, they hired back all the drivers and paid another $20 million in back wages.

20. Salad Bowl Strike (1970)

A series of strikes, mass demonstrations, and boycotts, which began on August 23, 1970, these are often considered the “largest farm worker strike in US history.” It ended with new legislation being passed concerning wages and unions.

19. US Postal Strike (1970)

The first nationwide strike of public employees, almost 210,000 US postal workers from New York City went on a strike in March 1970 to engage in collective bargaining agreements, which they were not allowed to do at that time. The protests also encouraged other postal workers nationwide and eventually brought mail and parcel delivery to a standstill. President Richard Nixon ordered the National Guard to replace them but this proved to be ineffective. The strike was a success as within two weeks, negotiations took place and they were granted higher wages, improved conditions, and they were also granted the right to negotiate.

18. General Electric Strike (1969)

When the unionized workers of General Electric went for coordinated strikes against the company in the fall of 1969, reports had it that it cost the company almost $79 million. Considered as a milestone in American labor history, the 14-week strike ended when GE agreed to offer several wage increases and other benefits as demanded by the union.

17. Steel Strike (1959)

Though a number of strikes organized by steel workers were futile in the past, this is one of those that proved to be on their advantage. While the steel industry profits were skyrocketing in 1959, the 500,000 United Steelworkers of America felt that they had a right to demand higher wages from the major steel-making companies of that time. In the end, the steel companies relented and raised their wages.

16. Asbestos Strike (1949)

This four-month labor dispute among the miners of four asbestos mines around Asbestos, Quebec occurred on February 14, 1949. A turning point in Quebec history that led to the Quiet Revolution, it started with the union workers’ demands of eliminating asbestos dust inside and outside of the mill, fifteen cents an hour general wage increase, five cent increase for night work, and the implementation of a social security fund. As these were radical demands at that time, owners rejected them and initiated mass arrests. Eventually the workers agreed to come back with meager improvements although a number never got their jobs back. In the long run, however, both wages and conditions have significantly improved.

15. Bituminous Coal Strike (1946)

From April to December 1946, almost 400,000 bituminous coalminers from the United Mine Workers of America went on a strike for safer working conditions, health benefits and pay. Just as the national economy of the United States was recovering from the ill-effects of World War II, the strike threatened to affect 26 states. Since this was counterproductive to the national industrial recovery, President Harry S. Truman approached the union with a settlement, which they rejected so they were later fined with $3.5 million. This ended the strike and forced an agreement where most of the UMWA’s demands were met in their compromised agreement with President Truman.

14. Hawaiian Sugar Strike (1946)

The 79-day strike, which resulted in a loss of $15 million to sugar producers, started when nearly 30,000 workers from 33 different sugar plantations protested for higher wages and better working conditions against the Big 5 sugar producers in Hawaii. Also known as the “Great Sugar Strike,” it ended with the workers getting their demands at the expense of the owners’ tremendous loss.

13. Toledo Auto-Lite Strike (1934)

The passing of the National Industrial Recovery Act on June 16, 1933 led to general union organizing in the US. One such union called the American Federation of Labor (AFL) organized a strike from April 12 to June 13 against the Electric Auto-Lite company in Toledo, Ohio. After a scuffle with the Ohio National Guard in what has come to be known as the “Battle of Toledo,” two strikers were dead and more than 200 wounded. The workers eventually had their way.

12. Ford Hunger March (1932)

Also called the “Ford Massacre” this was a demonstration of unemployed workers from Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan on March 7, 1932 against the Ford Motor Company. The skirmishes between the Dearborn Police Department and the workers led to the death of four workers and injured 60 others. These events led to the unionization of the US auto industry.

11. Battle of Blair Mountain (1921)

Considered one of the largest civil uprisings in the United States, this five-day open rebellion in August 1921 involved 10,000 armed coal miners confronting 3,000 lawmen and strikebreakers in Logan County, West Virginia in an attempt to unionize the West Virginia coalfields. It eventually ended when the United States Army intervened through a presidential decree and managed to raise awareness of the appalling conditions faced by coal miners in West Virginia.

10. Police Strikes (1919)

The swiftness and the solidarity of the 12,000 members of the Metropolitan Force under the National Union of Police and Prison Officers (NUPPO) on August 29, 1918 shocked the British government as it was just reeling from domestic and international labor unrest. Their demands, which included wage increase, progressive war bonuses, and shortening of pension settlement were eventually met after another successful strike in June 1919.

9. Dublin Lockout (1913)

This major industrial dispute, which occurred on August 26, 1913 in Dublin, Ireland, was between the 20,000 workers of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU) and 300 employers. The most significant and severe industrial dispute ever in Irish history, the lockout was unsuccessful in achieving better pay and conditions for the workers and led many businesses in Dublin to close. It did, however, signal the beginning of improvement to working conditions.

8. Colorado Coal Strike (1914)

The atrocity of the Colorado National Guard against the tent colony of 1,200 striking coalminers and their families on April 20, 1914 in Ludlow, Colorado resulted in the deaths of 25 people with some being burned to death and asphyxiated in their tents. The strike made its point though as Congress responded to public outcry by promoting child labor laws and an eight-hour work day.

7. New York Shirtwaist Strike (1909)

The first successful female labor strike in American history was done primarily by Jewish women working in shirtwaist factories in New York. They were organized by the National Women’s Trade Union League of America (NWTUL) in 1909 and it concluded in increased wages, better working conditions, and more flexible hours.

6. Great Anthracite Coal Strike (1902)

Also known as the Coal Strike of 1902, this turn of the century strike by the 147,000 members of the United Mine Workers of America occurred from May to September of the same year in the coal fields of eastern Pennsylvania. As miners protested for higher wages, shorter workdays and the recognition of their union, it threatened to create an energy crisis that would diminish the winter fuel supply to all major cities. President Theodore Roosevelt intervened with a fact-finding commission to suspend the strike, which resumed as the workers received more pay for fewer hours and the owners getting the higher price for coals. This is the very first time in history that the US government became a neutral arbitrator in union strikes.

5. Lattimer Strike (1897)

The violent death of 19 unarmed striking coalminers on September 10, 1897 in the Lattimer mine in Hazleton, Pennsylvania became the turning point for the United Mine Workers (UMW). Mostly of Polish, Lithuanian, Slovak and German descent, these 19 victims were shot by the Luzerne County sheriff’s posse and as a result, the UMW saw a dramatic upsurge of more than 10,000 new members. After three years, the union became powerful enough to demand wage increases and safety improvements for miners in the region.

4. Pullman Strike (1894)

Due to 12 hour work days and wage cuts, 4,000 employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company went on a strike from May 11 to mid-July, 1894 in Pullman, Illinois. They were later joined by 250,000 workers from the American Railway Union (ARU), which shut down most of the nation’s freight and passenger traffic west of Detroit, Michigan. It only ended on July 6, 1894 when President Grover Cleveland sent federal troops.

3. Great Southwest Railroad Strike (1886)

From March to September 1886, about 200,000 workers went on a labor strike against the owner of the Union Pacific and Missouri Pacific, Jay Gould, a robber baron who was considered one of the most ruthless industrialists of his time. Members of the Knights of Labor went on a labor union strike to protest unsafe working conditions and unfair wages. However, their protest failed due to lack of commitment from other railroad unions and the violent scare tactics that Gould employed as well as his hiring of non-union workers. Though the Knights of Labor later on disbanded, it led to the formation of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), which has been at the forefront of a number of labor strikes.

2. Eight-hour Strikes (1867)

Shortly following the Civil War, Chicago saw a good amount of labor related unrest. One of the largest was on May 2, 1867, when the First Traders Assembly organized a general strike with thousands of workers to enforce the enactment of the new eight-hour-day law. Though the one week strikes were largely unsuccessful they did lead to more political recognition on behalf of workers.

1. Calton Weavers Strike (1787)

One of the earliest major industrial disputes in Scottish history, it occurred in Calton, a hand-weaving community just outside of Glasgow in the summer of 1787. It stemmed from the development of mechanizations and growth in labor force that severely depressed wages. As workers protested in the streets of Glasgow, some Scottish troops fired on the demonstrators killing six people. Also known as the Calton Weavers Massacre of 1787, these weavers became Scotland’s first working-class martyrs and became a symbol of labor movement.