The Strike: Snatching Victory from the Jaws of Defeat

At 11 a.m. on Monday, August 3, 1981, President Ronald Reagan strode to a podium in the White House Rose Garden and announced that more than 11,000 striking air traffic controllers would be fired if they failed to return to work in forty-eight hours. With just a few brief sentences, Reagan snapped off the end of an unusual thirty-five-year era in U.S. labor relations—a period when even most of the nation’s corporate elite considered strikes an accepted, even routine, aspect of an institutionalized collective bargaining process.

In his Rose Garden remarks, Reagan carefully distinguished the government workers’ illegal strike he was smashing from strikes waged by workers in the private sector. “Let me make one thing plain,” he said. “I respect the right of workers in the private sector to strike. Indeed, as president of my own union [the Screen Actors Guild], I led the first strike ever called by that union. But we cannot compare labor management relations in the private sector with government.” This distinction, however, was evidently lost on the nation’s private sector employers. “By taking a rough stance,” the National Journal observed, “the administration has obviously sent a signal to others in management positions; if the government can break the unions, then private employers can too.” And break unions they did, launching a wave of strike-breaking that virtually eliminated the strike from labor’s arsenal of tactics for two generations.[1]

The impact of the destruction of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) was swift and devastating. In the thirty-one years prior to the controllers’ strike, from 1950 to 1980, American trade unionists waged an average of 304 large strikes, involving more than 1.4 million workers, each year. But after Reagan signaled open season on union-busting, the plunge in strikes was staggering. In just ten years after PATCO, the number of annual strikes fell by 71 percent, to just eighty-seven strikes a year, involving on average 446,000 workers. In the final decade of the twentieth century, there was an average of merely thirty-four strikes, involving less than 300,000 workers, per year. And from 2010 to 2022, there have been only fifteen strikes each year, involving 131,000 workers on average.[2]

The PATCO debacle alone does not explain the near-elimination of the strike, which was also paralleled by a steep drop in union density, from 23.3 percent in 1980 to 10.1 percent today.[3] Union-busting was reinforced by an array of neoliberal policies that shattered the foundations of union bargaining power: deregulation of heavily unionized industries like airlines, trucking, and telecommunications; increased globalization of manufacturing; a wave of heartland deindustrialization as foreign competitors seized market share from domestic manufacturers in core industries like auto, steel, and rubber; a decisive shift from manufacturing to service employment; and the spread of conservative ideology, which pinned the blame for economic stagnation on union bosses  and their coddled memberships. In the 1990s, the bipartisan implementation of multinational free trade agreements like NAFTA, and the admission of China to the World Trade Organization, spurred a global “race to the bottom” that supercharged employer leverage at the bargaining table.[4]

Union-busting was reinforced by an array of neoliberal policies: . . . deregulation of heavily unionized industries, . . . globalization of manufacturing, . . . heartland deindustrialization, a decisive shift from manufacturing to service employment, and the spread of conservative ideology . . .

In the years following the PATCO firings, labor suffered a series of dispiriting defeats on picket lines across the country. Phelps-Dodge, Greyhound, Hormel, International Paper, Caterpillar, Firestone/Bridgestone, the Detroit newspapers: time and again, employers broke strikes and permanently replaced workers. In many of these confrontations, union leaders, conditioned by decades of routine strikes and regular wage and benefit improvements, were ill-prepared, organizationally or tactically, to counter management’s newfound aggressiveness. But even when rank-and-file militants mounted sustained, often heroic, campaigns involving extensive public outreach and sophisticated, multi-faceted corporate campaigns—as at Hormel or the Detroit newspapers—the outcome was almost invariably the same: defeat.[5] The employer offensive against strikes was so effective that according to one study, of all strikes recorded by the Federal  Mediation and Conciliation Service between 1984 and 2002, the link between striking and improving workers’ wages was completely broken.[6] As labor lawyer and commentator Thomas  Geoghegan wryly observed in 1991: “Since the eighties, it has been insane to go on strike. Every strike ends in disaster.”[7]

As long as there have been bosses, workers’ ability to withhold their labor and inflict economic damage on their employers has been their most powerful weapon. But the disappearance of strikes not only curtailed workers’ economic power; it also had a corrosive effect on the internal life of the labor movement. Strikes are the only activity undertaken by unions that require them to account for the disposition of every single member—when the strike begins, members either join the picket lines or join the ranks of scabs. No other union activity demands that level of systematic internal engagement. Strikes also shape members’ consciousness of their position in the economic struggle: Each must make a deliberate choice to support the union or to side with corporate power. The result is that unions that strike at least periodically are likely to be more democratic and more participatory than those that do not.

A New Post-PATCO Era?
As historian David Montgomery observed in the closing pages of The Fall of the House of Labor, “no historical resolution of the conflict between wage labor and capital . . . has enjoyed a permanent lease on life.”8 Montgomery was reflecting on how the post-World War I evisceration of the labor movement gave way, barely a decade later, to labor’s greatest insurgency, the CIO upsurge in industrial organizing of the mid- and late 1930s. We are by no means seeing a shift of that magnitude, but in recent years, there has been a significant, if modest, revival of strike activity, and it seems that the long winter of post-PATCO union busting may finally be thawing.

This upsurge in strike activity can be traced to shifts in the political environment, sparked by the financial crisis of 2007-2009, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in 2016 and 2020. In particular, Bernie’s unequivocal endorsement of workers’ struggles revived interest in unions among an entire  generation of young activists. In 2018 and 2019, teachers in West Virginia, Arizona, and Oklahoma waged the massive “Red for Ed” strikes. In 2018, some 375,000 education workers struck, raising the total number of strikers in that year to 475,000, the most in any year since 1986.9 A signal moment in the revival of union militancy was also in education—the historic twelve-day strike waged in 2019 by the Chicago Teachers Union against neoliberal Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and the Chicago Public School system, which brilliantly linked the teachers’ struggles to the “common good” concerns of students and parents.

Strikes also shape members’ consciousness of their position in the economic struggle: Each must make a deliberate choice to support the union or to side with corporate power.

In the fall of 2021, simultaneous strikes by hospital workers in Buffalo, John Deere manufacturing workers in the Midwest, and at Kellogg’s across the country led to the celebration by many labor activists of “Striketober!” Last year saw the largest strike of academic workers in history, with 48,000 teaching assistants, researchers, tutors, post-docs, and other graduate student workers represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union winning a six-week struggle against the University of California.[10]

So far in 2023, a three-day strike by 30,000 school support personnel represented by the Service Employees International Union in Los Angeles, strengthened by the remarkable solidarity of the system’s schoolteachers, won the workers a 30-percent across-the-board raise.[11] Then, 9,000 faculty members struck Rutgers University, with higher-paid full-time faculty holding out in  solidarity to help more precarious, lower-wage, graduate student workers and adjunct faculty win substantial raises. On May 2, 2023, 11,500 Hollywood writers walked off their jobs in an  existential battle to protect their livelihoods from the downward pressure of streaming and the growing threat of artificial intelligence.[12] In mid-July, the writers were joined on the picket line by 160,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), the first time the two unions had simultaneously struck the TV and film industries since 1960. By that point, LA’s “hot labor summer” was in full swing, as 15,000 hotel workers, represented by UNITEHERE Local 11, launched a wave of rolling strikes demanding an immediate $5 an hour raise and industry support for more affordable housing in the city.[13] At the United Parcel Service company, 340,000 Teamsters made robust, highly visible preparations for a strike and ended up winning a landmark agreement that averted a strike at the nation’s largest unionized private-sector employer. And still ahead, a confrontation looms this fall between
the United Auto Workers and the Big Three auto manufacturers.

This upsurge in strike activity can be traced to shifts in the political environment, sparked by the financial crisis of 2007 to 2009, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren . . .

What should we make of this resurgence of strike activity? A modest level of strike contagion—always a key element in the proliferation of strikes—has clearly taken hold. Workers at Rutgers, for instance, were inspired by the examples of University of California workers and a simultaneous twenty-five-day strike at New York’s New School for Social Research. There has also been a notable increase in militancy in public education, including strikes in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Oakland, as groups of public-school teachers are inspired by their colleagues’ victories elsewhere in the country. A similar dynamic has played out in hospitals, where strikes by nurses demanding improved staffing levels have spread, most notably in the recent New York State Nurses  Association strike at Montefiore and Mount Sinai Hospitals in New York City. And in California, Covid-related health dangers, unaddressed by management, sparked more than 100 strikes by SEIU-backed fast food workers, lasting anywhere from a few hours to several weeks.

But if the upsurge in strike activity is real, with the possibility of more to come later this year, we should not exaggerate the magnitude of the upsurge. Despite “Striketober!,” the number of large strikes recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2021 rose to only sixteen, involving fewer than 81,000 workers. In 2022, the increase was modest again—to twenty-three strikes involving about 120,000 workers. Compared to previous years of heightened strike activity—real strike waves—these numbers amount to the faintest of ripples. In both 1969 and 1974, just to take two of the most recent peak years of strike activity, over 400 strikes involving 1.5 million to 1.8 million workers took place. To put it slightly differently, in 1974, on average, there were as many strikes every two weeks as there were in all of 2021.[14]

We should therefore be humble about prescribing what it will take to revive the strike on anywhere near the scale that prevailed during the four decades from the CIO upsurge until PATCO. A wary eye should be cast on simplistic prescriptions for restoring the strike. As sociologist Alvin Gouldner observed in his dissection of a wildcat strike in 1955, “a ‘strike’ is a social phenomenon of enormous complexity which, in its totality, is never susceptible to complete description, let alone complete explanation.”[15]

Striking in the Neoliberal Era: The Communications Workers of America Experience
Perhaps one way to explore what factors enable workers to strike, and thus how strikes may be more broadly revived, is to focus on the experience of one union that did not stop striking throughout the post-PATCO strike drought. That union is the one for which I was fortunate to work from 1986 to 2022, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in New York, New Jersey, and New England. From the divestiture  of AT&T in 1984 until the present, New York telephone workers, often along with their counterparts in the New England and mid-Atlantic states, struck the phone company six times. The strikes ranged in length from 2.5 days in 1998 to 17 weeks in 1989, with the most recent being a seven-week battle in 2016. The willingness—some might say eagerness—of telephone workers to strike spilled over to other bargaining units in the union. Hospital workers in Buffalo—also CWA members—struck for twelve weeks in 1987 and then again for forty days during “Striketober” in 2021. In 1998, Connecticut telephone workers got in on the action with a twenty-six-day strike against the then-independent telephone company, Southern New England Telephone. In late 2016, upstate New York members of the union’s International Union of Electrical Workers (IUE)-CWA industrial division, created by the 2001 merger of the IUE with CWA, struck Momentive, a silicone manufacturer spun off from General Electric in 2006, for fifteen weeks.

We should . . . be humble about prescribing what it will take to revive the strike on anywhere near the scale that prevailed during the four decades from the CIO upsurge until PATCO.

A brief review of the factors that allowed CWA members to strike in an era when strikes nearly vanished from labor’s repertoire reveals both the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for unionists seeking to revive the strike. Telephone unionists’ sense of workplace power originates in a clearly articulated culture of control over the work process that could be lifted from the pages of David Montgomery’s description of workers’ control in the latter decades of the nineteenth century. Montgomery identified an ethos of workgroup mutuality in which workers informally controlled the pace of work in order to protect the average worker, prevent job-destroying speedup, and exercise power against the boss when necessary.[16] At the phone company in the 1960s, cable splicers describe how a proficient worker could splice 700-800 copper pairs in a manhole in an hour but voluntarily limited the output to 250-300 splices. “We didn’t want anyone to get in trouble because they couldn’t keep up,” recalled Dennis Trainor, the northeastern regional Vice President of CWA who was initially hired as a cable splicer’s helper in the Bronx in 1969. “We didn’t want 800 to be the number,” he said, “when the average person can only do 300.” If faster workers continued to produce 800, management would just say, “Well, everyone’s got to do more and more.”[17]

This sense of shop power became a weapon in the hands of local union leaders. “It made the chief steward stronger by the fact that when he dealt with management, he could raise or lower [output], right,” recalls Pat Welsh, a cable splicer who was hired in the late 1960s. “‘Alright, we’re on a slowdown’ . . . As long as it was sanctioned by [the union].”[18]

There were other factors that gave telephone workers the confidence to keep striking. Three that distinguish their situation stand out. First, much of their work could not be physically relocated. Customer service work could be shifted overseas, but the network itself could not be moved to Mexico or Malaysia. Second, telephone strikes involved tens of thousands of workers. In 1989, a seventeen-week strike against health care cost-shifting involved 60,000 workers in New York and New England, including 40,000 CWAers and another 20,000 from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).19 In 2000, 86,000 CWA and IBEW members from Maine to Virginia struck Bell Atlantic, which had merged with NYNEX several years earlier. In 2016, even though the company had sold off less-profitable parts of its business and technology had steadily whittled away the workforce, the strike still involved 36,000 workers from southern New England to Virginia. Since many of them were highly skilled, and since Verizon increasingly relied on front-line management who had come out of business school with little knowledge of how to maintain the system, workers were confident it would be hard to replace them. And finally, New York was one of the only states in the country that allowed strikers to collect unemployment insurance (albeit with a seven-week waiting period until 2021).20 Strikers in New York were confident that if they could survive without a steady paycheck for two months, significant relief would be available in the form of state benefits.

Modernizing CWA’s Culture of Militancy
In the 1980s, just as the impact of PATCO was spreading across the labor movement, the CWA also gradually transformed its approach to bargaining, membership involvement, and striking, contributing to more effective strikes in subsequent years. After holding a series of state and county public worker jobs in New Jersey in the 1970s, Larry Cohen, a self-described activist of the 1968 generation, was hired by CWA to lead a massive, multiyear campaign to organize 40,000 New Jersey state workers into the union. After CWA won representation rights in 1981, Cohen led CWA’s bargaining for a first contract in New Jersey. Committed to a philosophy of bottom-up organizing, Cohen and his New Jersey staff created the “Committee of 1,000” stewards and workplace mobilization coordinators to activate members across hundreds of state offices and institutions. Over 100 members served on the first bargaining committee, and their demands transcended bread and butter concerns. “We were fighting for public sector work to expand, public services to expand, and it can’t just be a job. We’ve got to define a mission,” recalls Cohen. The New Jersey approach evolved into what would become known as the “CWA Mobilization” program, which shaped contract campaigns from the late 1980s on. Cohen was named CWA’s national Organizing Director in 1986. He was elected Executive Vice President in 1998, and national Union President in 2005.

“Mobilization” informed the New York telephone workers’ approach to striking from 1988 onwards. Anticipating a major confrontation over NYNEX’s determination to force workers to pay an increasing share of health care costs as part of the 1989 contract, CWA launched a massive membership education campaign that trained thousands of “workplace mobilization coordinators.” Members learned about past struggles, about the economics of the industry, and about how to bring other members into the mobilization effort. The union instituted a practice of wearing red every Thursday to demonstrate solidarity, a tradition that continues to this day.

Committed to a philosophy of bottom-up organizing, Cohen and his New Jersey staff created the “Committee of 1,000” stewards and workplace mobilization coordinators to activate members across hundreds of state offices and institutions.

The union also framed its contract campaign to win broad public sympathy, demanding “Health Care for All, Not Health Cuts at NYNEX.” Throughout the 1989 strike, which lasted seventeen weeks and resulted in the tragic death of a Westchester County Chief Steward struck by a car in a picket line incident, CWA attempted to build broad political alliances. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, fresh off his historic 1988 campaign for president, joined CWA at its first strike rally on Wall Street, attended by more than 5,000 workers, in August 1989. At a critical point in the strike, 130 New York State legislators signed full-page ads in The New York Times and Albany Times Union, opposing NYNEX’s application to the New York State Public Service Commission for a rate increase unless the strike was settled. Strikers collected 100,000 petition signatures from the public opposing the rate increase. New York Daily News columnist, Jack Newfield, wrote a blistering attack on NYNEX management entitled “The Ding-a-Lings Who Run NYNEX.” Simultaneously, the union updated its picketing strategies, limiting picket lines outside of largely empty central offices and turning instead to “flying squadrons” of strikers who pursued management scabs doing installations and repairs in the field. They also picketed homes and businesses serviced by scabs and occasionally picketed at the base of telephone poles while scabs worked on the wires above. Most important, CWA recognized that, in the post-PATCO era, simply walking  on picket lines and trying to outlast the employer was a recipe for failure. Any strike had to operate on multiple levels—membership engagement first and foremost, sharp public messaging,  targeting the employer’s leadership and board, and building broad coalitions among community allies and other labor organizations.[21]

But perhaps most critical to CWA’s willingness to strike in the neoliberal, post-PATCO era—and clearly one of the most difficult factors to replicate with other groups of workers—was the collective memory of striking that was handed down, generation to generation, by telephone workers. That memory was forged in 1971, when more than 38,000 New York Telephone plant technicians rejected their local agreement after a two-week national strike against AT&T despite a wage and benefit package that raised workers’ compensation by over 33 percent. Motivated by an inchoate sense that they deserved “more,” the New York Tel workers held out for 218 days.

. . . [M]ost critical to CWA’s willingness to strike in the neoliberal, post-PATCO era . . . was the collective memory of striking that was handed down, generation to generation, by telephone workers.

The strike was disorganized; there was little strategic planning; and the national leadership opposed the holdout. After a few months, even picket lines became sparse. When that seven-and-a-half-month strike was over, many workers and outside observers deemed it a defeat. The only gains from the long months on the picket line were a $1 per week wage increase over the national agreement and improved language on weekend pay and agency fee provisions. But within a few years, the memory that stuck with telephone workers was not the limited improvements they had won, but the fact that they had beaten the odds—outlasted Ma Bell and stayed on the street for seven and a half months. By the time bargaining for the 1974 contract arrived, Local 1101, which represented thousands of workers in the Bronx and Manhattan, distributed buttons that read “7 More in ’74.” “We did what we had to do, to show that we were united and [that] we’ll stand up to this company,” Dennis Trainor remembered. “No one blamed the union. There was no, ‘We shouldn’t have done that. We lost out on that.’ Everybody felt that we were stronger when we went back in than we were when we left. I think that helped us in future years, and it helped us in future contracts. We were much stronger.”[22]

The experiences of 1971 and 1989 became a kind of workplace folklore handed down to subsequent generations of telephone workers. Pam Galpern, who was hired in Verizon’s Installation and Repair Department in 1999, explains:

I think the fact that there’s a history of strikes had definitely contributed to a culture where people who were there talked about the strikes, talked about how we were out for seven months. We were out for four months. That’s what built the union. There was a . . . direct connection between we struck, we got a contract, we beat them back. “Maybe we only got a dollar, but we got a lot of respect in ’71. We struck in ’89. But then we were almost the only people not paying for their health premiums.” Look at our contract. Look how much is there. How do you protect that? One of the biggest ways you protect that is through a strike.[23]

Telephone workers in New York are unusual. They share a collective memory of victories won on picket lines during a half century of striking. Despite enormous technological changes and the eclipse of traditional telephone service, these memories persist. For most workers in America, this aspect of collective memory has been extinguished over two generations of labor quiescence.

The experience of the New York telephone workers demonstrates that workers’ capacity to strike is determined by multiple factors, including workplace culture and power relations, collective memory, political climate, and leadership. But the argument here is not that the presence of every one these factors is a prerequisite for reviving the strike. For example, workers in public schools, academia, and health care have no doubt already recognized both that their work is not easily relocated and that their skills make them difficult to replace. This has given them the confidence to step up their level of strike activity. Furthermore, a more favorable political climate has strengthened the hand of workers whose jobs might have been vulnerable to relocation in earlier decades. Pandemic-induced supply chain bottlenecks, federal industrial policy that incentivizes investment in domestic manufacturing, and an intensified political backlash to deindustrialization and offshoring have made it far riskier for corporate executives to threaten to send jobs overseas—Big Three autoworkers, take note. And a string of recent strike victories—particularly in higher education and public schools, at John Deere, Marriott, and Verizon—chip away at the defeatism which has been the legacy of the post-PATCO era. A few more high-profile victories—at the Big Three, for example—would powerfully reinforce workers’ sense of possibility.

As the memory of PATCO-era strikebreaking finally begins to fade, it will be up to a new generation of rank-and-file activists and leaders to create a new set of traditions and rebuild the confidence that has been lost over the last four decades.

There is no substitute, of course, for workers’ historical experience of victorious strikes. The collective memory of successful strikes in the 1930s and 1940s carried American workers through several decades of industrial militancy. As the memory of PATCO-era strikebreaking finally begins to fade, it will be up to a new generation of rank-and-file activists and leaders to create a new set of traditions and rebuild the confidence that has been lost over the last four decades. Visionary union leaders must seize the moment. They must recognize that a period of defeat has ended, and new possibilities have opened up. If they want to win strikes of the future, these leaders will have to be daring and tactically imaginative—willing to identify their struggles with the broader public interest and adept at communicating with the public. Doing this at scale—returning the strike to its central role in U.S. labor relations—will be no small undertaking. But this generation of labor activists cannot afford not to try.

1. Joseph McCartin, Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). See in particular, 288-95 and 328-30. National Journal quotation on 342.
2. “Annual Work Stoppages Involving 1,000 or More Workers, 1947-2022,” Bureau of Labor Statistics Work Stoppages, available at
3. Barry T. Hirsch, David A. Macpherson, and William E. Even, “Union Membership, Coverage, Density, and Employment: All Wage and Salary Workers,” Union Membership and Coverage Database from the CPS, available at
4. McCartin, Collision Course, 345; Joseph McCartin, “Solvents of Solidarity: Political Economy, Collective Action, and the Crisis of Organized Labor, 1958-2005,” in Rethinking U.S. Labor History: Essays on the Working Class Experience, 1756-2009, ed. Donna Haverty-Stacke and Daniel Walkowitz (New York: Continuum Books, 2010), 225-28; Gary Gerstle, The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order (New York: Oxford University Press, 2022), see 121-2 for discussion of the PATCO strike.
5. Jake Rosenfeld, What Unions No Longer Do (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), 87; Jonathan Rosenblum, Copper Crucible: How the Arizona Miners Strike of 1983 Recast Labor-Management Relations in America (Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, 1995); “Strike Over Pay Cut Halts Intercity Buses of Greyhound Line,” The New York Times, November 3, 1978, A1; Sara Rimer, “Hundreds of Jobless Line up at Greyhound,” The New York Times, November 5, 1983, A29; Julius Getman, The Betrayal of Local 14 (Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, 1998); Kenneth Noble, “Union Says Hormel Pact Does Not Guarantee Jobs for Strikers,” The New York Times, August 29, 1986, A10; Donald W. Nauss, “Labor Wars Hit Home in Decatur,” The Los Angeles Times, September 4, 1994, available at; C. J. Hawking, “Staley’s Legacy of Struggle, Lessons of Defeat,” Against the Current, March-April, 1986, available at; “Union Leaders Give Up on Caterpillar Strike,” The New York Times, December 4, 1995, B5; Jennifer Berkshire, “Staley: The Fight for a New American Labor Movement,” Labor Notes, July 15, 2009, available at; Chris Rhomberg, The Broken Table: The Detroit Newspaper Strike and the State of American Labor (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2012).
6. Jake Rosenfeld, “Desperate Measures: Strikes and Wages in Post-Accord America,” Social Forces 85, no. 1 (September 2006): 235-65.
7. Quoted in Jake Rosenfeld, What Unions No Longer Do (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), 86. 8. David Montgomery, The Fall of the House of Labor (Cambridge: Cambridge  University Press, 1987), 464.
9. Eric Blanc, “The Red for Ed Movement, Two Years In,” New Labor Forum, October 2020, available at
10. “Strikes Occurring during CES Survey Reference Period, 1990-Present,” available at
htm#2018; “Largest-ever US Higher Education Strike Ends after ‘Landmark’ Deal,” The Guardian, December 27, 2022, available at
11. “L.A. school district workers have approved a labor deal following a 3-day strike,” NPR/ WNYC, April 8, 2023, available at https://
12. “Hollywood Writers Go on Strike, Halting Production,” The New York Times, May 1, 2023, available at https://www.nytimes. com/2023/05/01/business/media/hollywood-writers-strike.html.
13. David Helps, “LA Hotel Workers Are on Strike to Stem the City’s Housing Crisis,” In These Times, August 8, 2023, accessed at
14. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Annual Work Stoppages Involving 1,000 or more Workers, 1947—Present,” available at
15. Quoted in Richard Hyman, Strikes (London: MacMillan, 1989), 19.
16. David Montgomery, “Machine Production in the Nineteenth Century,” in Workers’ Control in America, ed. David Montgomery (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 10-16.
17. Interview with Dennis Trainor, July 22, 2019, New York, NY, in author’s possession.
18. Interview with Pat Welsh, August 14, 2019, New York, NY, in author’s possession.
19. Frank Prial, “NYNEX Reaches Tentative Pact with 60,000 Striking Workers,” The New York Times, November 14, 1989, B1.
20. In February 2020, New York State enacted a law reducing the waiting period for strikers to collect UI benefits to two weeks. “Tipping the Scales: New York Reduces the UI Waiting Period for Striking Workers,” available at
21. Much of this approach is extremely well summarized in Steve Early, “Strike Lessons from the Last Twenty-Five Years: What it Takes to Walk Out and Win,” in The Encyclopedia of American Strikes in American History, ed. Aaron Brenner, Benjamin Day, and Immanuel Mess (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2009), 81-91.
22. Interview with Dennis Trainor.
23. Interview with Pam Galpern, July 15, 2019, Brooklyn, NY, in author’s possession.

Author Biography
Bob Master retired in 2022 from the Communications Workers of America, District One, where he served as Assistant to the regional Vice President for Legislative, Political and Mobilization Activities. He currently serves on the Executive Committee of the National Working Families Party and is an adjunct professor at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies.


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