THE YEAR OF THE STRIKE
Strikes have long served as a tool of expression and movement-building for workers. The first documented labor strike on U.S. soil, the Polish workers’ and artisans’ strike of 1619, predates the inception of the country itself by over 150 years. Through centuries of labor commodification, workers have been organizing and using their collective power to demand justice in their workplaces.
After a sharp and consistent decline in U.S. labor strikes since the 1970’s, 2018 saw a huge spike in work stoppage nationwide. From West Virginia to Los Angeles, a powerful wave of strikes and radical labor action has called into question the dominant narrative about union decline and the end of organized labor. In our inaugural issue, the Undergraduate Labor Institute hopes to use the history of strikes as a lens for analyzing the current circumstances around labor activism in the form of work stoppages.
The AFL-CIO writes that “we must look to the past not only for inspiration, but for the tools we need to continue the fight. The roots of the problems we face today can be found in our past. So can the beginnings of the solutions we need for our future.” Following this, we want to honor the history of labor organizing in our spring 2019 publication as we seek to explain the trends that led to the recent strike resurgence, and to propose possible policies and strategies that might help workers continue to gather leverage and build power.
2018 was the year of the strike, and 2019 will be the year of the ULI.