This year, workers across industries in the United States have increasingly walked off the job or threatened to do so. In July, tens of thousands of actors joined screenwriters on the picket line, bringing Hollywood to a halt. Meanwhile, a summertime strike of more than 300,000 United Parcel Service workers seemed imminent before a deal was reached last month.
Now, another large-scale strike looms. The United Auto Workers union has voted to authorize a walkout of about 150,000 members at General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis if negotiations fail before contracts expire on Sept. 14.
If the auto workers go on strike, the number of workers who have walked off the job at some point over the course of this year will top 450,000, the highest level since 2018, another notable year for work stoppages.
A Summer of Strikes
Work stoppages in the United States this year could reach heights rarely seen in recent decades.
We, the 20,000 textile workers of Lawrence, are out on strike for the right to live free from slavery and starvation; free from overwork and underpay; free from a state of affairs that had become so unbearable and beyond our control, that we were compelled to march out of the slave pens of Lawrence in united resistance against the wrongs and injustice of years and years of wage slavery.
In our fight we have suffered and borne patiently the abuse and calumnies of the mill owners, the city government, police, militia, State government, legislature, and the local police court judge. We feel that in justice to our fellow workers we should at this time make known the causes which compelled us to strike against the mill owners of Lawrence. We hold that as useful members of society and as wealth producers we have the right to lead decent and honorable lives; that we ought to have homes and not shacks; that we ought to have clean food and not adulterated food at high prices; that we ought to have clothes suited to the weather and not shoddy garments. That to secure sufficient food, clothing and shelter in a society made up of a robber class on the one hand and a working class on the other hand, it is absolutely necessary for the toilers to band themselves together and form a union, organizing its powers in such form as to them seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
Voices of a People’s History of the United States
Howard Zinn, Anthony Arnove
One of the most dramatic labor struggles in American history took place in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1912 when textile workers, mostly women, European immigrants speaking a dozen different languages, carried on a strike during the bitterly cold months of January to March 1912. Despite police violence and hunger, they persisted, and were victorious against the powerful textile mill owners. Borrowing from the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the following strike declaration, issued by the workers of Lawrence, was translated into the many languages of the immigrant textile workers in Massachusetts and circulated around the world.