The Ten Greatest Labor Strikes in American History

6) Textile Workers Strike of 1934
*400,000 strikers
*September 1, 1934 to September 23, 1934
*Entire Eastern Seaboard
On Labor Day in 1934, after years of long hours and low wages, American textile workers set out on strike, in response to the negligent representation of textile labor in FDR’s National Recovery Administration.  The United Textile Workers (UTW) organized 400,000 to walk out for just over twenty days, but a lack of outside support and an excess of textile materials, especially in the Southern states, forced the strike to end without any of the original demands being met.  Union spirit reached new lows in the following years and many workers were blacklisted as a result.

7) 1946 Bituminous Coal Strike
*400,000 strikers
*April-December, 1946
*Across 26 States

On April Fools day of 1946, the United Mine Workers of America called on 400,000 bituminous coal miners to strike for safer conditions, health benefits, and pay. The strike came at a time when the national economy was recovering from the second World War, and president Truman saw the UMWA’s actions as counterproductive to national industrial recovery. Truman approached the union with a settlement. When the workers refused the proposal, they were fined $3.5 million, forcing their agreement and the end of the strike. Although forced, most of the UMWA’s demands were met in Truman’s compromise.

8 ) Steel Strike of 1959
*500,000 strikers
*July 15, 1959 to November 6, 1959
During 1959, steel industry profits were skyrocketing.  Noticing this, the nation’s steelworkers, represented by the United Steelworkers of America, demanded higher wages.  At the same time,  management was working against the union to lose a contract clause which protected worker jobs and hours.  This conflict resulted in a 500,000 worker strike the effects of which were felt throughout the industry. In the end, the union received wage increases and preserved their contract clause.

9) 1970 U.S. Postal Strike
*210,000 strikers
*Two weeks in March, 1970
*Began in New York City, Spread Nationwide

During the Nixon Administration, U.S. postal workers were not allowed to engage in collective bargaining. Increased dissatisfaction with wages, working conditions, benefits, and management led the postal workers in New York City to strike. Encouraged by New York’s example, postal workers nationwide followed suit. With mail and parcel delivery at a standstill, Nixon ordered the National Guard to replace the striking workers – a measure which proved ineffective. The strike was so effective that within two weeks negotiations took place. The unions’ demands for wages and conditions were largely met, and they were granted the right to negotiate.

10) UPS workers strike
*185,000 strikers
*August 4, 1997 to August 19, 1997
The largest strike of the 1990’s was lead by 185,000 UPS Teamsters.  They were looking for the creation of full-time jobs rather than part-time, increased wages, and the retention of their multi-employer pension plan.  These workers gained major support from the public and eventually had all of their demands met.  UPS, however, lost more than $600 million in business as a result of the ordeal.
-Michael B. Sauter, Charles B. Stockdale, and Douglas A. McIntyre