Approximately two months ago, when teachers and transport workers participated in economic strikes as they demanded better wages, benefits and working conditions, I remained clueless about it. Either technological interferences prevented me from discovering the news on the internet, or I failed to access the right channels on a regular basis to keep myself updated with what was happening in Australia or internationally. I thought the topic was interesting enough to research; a venture that introduced me to different types of strikes such as general strike also known as mother of strikes, open-ended strike, recognition strike, solidarity or sympathy strike, political strike, wildcat strike, sit down strike, economic strike, symbolic strike, lockouts, rolling strike, intermittent strike, so on and so forth. The extensive list seemed endless. I also learned that the first labor strike was recorded in ancient Egypt in 1156 BC when the laborer’s protested against Pharaoh Ramesses III for late wages.
I then investigated about countries in which trade unions or employees’ associations involved themselves in unique strikes. While growing up, my father who was an employee of a renowned tea/coffee manufacturing company and a member of the trade union, shared information he had gathered from an article about Japanese strikes with me. Instead of participating in shut down operations for a few hours or half a day or a full working day, the Japanese employees worked extended hours in protestation against unfair terms and conditions. If you are wondering what compelled me to take a trip down memory lane, it was the news report about Okayama bus drivers who participated in an industrial dispute by working as usual on their rostered shifts without collecting the fares from the commuters as their demand for job security had not been met.
I then stumbled upon a piece about how all the employees belonging to 71 Market Basket stores walked out vehemently protesting the firing of their much-loved CEO Arthur .T. Demoulas. Their demonstrative strike led to the re-appointment of the CEO. The Homestead strike was equally interesting because of its unusualness. The workers of the American company, Carnegie Steel, battled against Pinkerton National Detective Agency hired by the industrialist, acting on behalf of the owner, to infiltrate unions and to keep the strikers out and the strike concluded with the surrender of the Pinkertons and the grant of their demands but not without casualties on either side. Student organized political and other demonstrative strikes are also interesting to explore. Woojin Lim, in his article ‘The Right to Strike’ on the Harvard Crimson has rightly remarked, “The right to strike is the right to resist oppression.” ‘Collective bargaining,’ as he calls it, is a right that has to be exercised despite the inconveniences and the costs involved for both the employers and the employees because it is a democratic right (right against exploitation) to demand reform in the face of unjust social flaws and inequities.