Special Report

31 of the Largest Worker Strikes in American History

Source: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

16. The New York City Tugboat Strike of 1988
> Duration: Feb. 16, 1988 to Dec. 20, 1993
> No. of strikers: 1,600
> Cumulative days off the job: 2,895,200

Tugboat operators, whose ranks had been on the decline for many years, staged a failed strike that led to lower wages for many members of their union, The International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots.

Source: Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

15. General Motors Strike
> Duration: June 5, 1998 to July 29, 1998
> No. of strikers: 152,200
> Cumulative days off the job: 3,313,000

A bitter strike at General Motors in 1998 ended after the automaker said it would not shutter factories where the workers were on strike and agreed to invest $180 million in new equipment at one of the facilities. The United Auto Workers agreed to work-rule changes that would increase production.

Source: Scott Olson / Getty Images

14. Caterpillar Strike
> Duration: June 20, 1994 to Dec. 3, 1995
> No. of strikers: 14,000
> Cumulative days off the job: 4,063,000

Union members at Caterpillar, the world’s largest heavy equipment manufacturer, returned to work in December 1995 after a failed long strike. Workers had gone on strike in June 1994, protesting unfair labor practices. They had been working without a contract since 1991. The new contract placed limits on job security and overtime pay, and gave Caterpillar leeway to lay off workers more frequently.

Source: library_of_congress / Flickr

13. Passaic Textile Strike
> Duration: Jan. 25, 1926 to March 1, 1927
> No. of strikers: 15,000
> Cumulative days off the job: 4,215,000

The Passaic Textile Strike of 1926 involved more than 15,000 wool and silk workers in the Passaic, New Jersey, region. Workers reacted to a 10% pay cut and were galvanized later by police violence against demonstrators. Union demands included, among other items, time-and-a-half pay for overtime, a 40-hour workweek, sanitary working conditions, and no descrimination against union members.

The strike failed. Of the nine mills affected, even the few that settled disputes with workers broke their deals, firing many of the workers and rehiring them at lower wages.

Source: FPG / Staff / Getty Images

12. The 1934 Textile Worker Strike
> Duration: Sept. 3, 1934 to Sept. 23, 1934
> No. of strikers: 400,000
> Cumulative days off the job: 5,600,000

Textile workers went on strike to protest a cut in pay as their workweeks were being reduced. The strike idled the textile industry in North Carolina. The workers, however, lacked the means to continue the struggle. Their cause was also undermined by a glut of textile inventory. In September, President Franklin Roosevelt personally intervened to ask the workers to return to the mills and they did so.

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