Union Power

Ever since workers started organizing themselves to raise their salaries and working conditions, it has slowly started to improve. The working organisation negotiates and represent their members collectively and individually. The great work lies in negotiating treaties and competitive salaries for all members. Sometimes the differences between worker organisations and employment organisations were so big that there has been a conflict between the parties. On those occasions the worker organisation can use their strongest force, strike!


A strike is per definition a collective refusal of work. Meaning that the workers’ united refusal to do their work. It has since beginning of union work been the strongest weapon for the workers. At a strike the workers usually try to occupy the workplace so that the employer can´t take on other people to fill their places or at least to try to limit the ways to get the work done. During the first period of union work there were often violent fights and conflicts between those on strike and people going to work in their place, the so-called scabs.

Employers’ Answer

Beside the possibility to put in other people to work, the employer can also call for lockout. This is used when parties are negotiating a new deal. A lockout is only effective if workers are organised in union. The conflict can be very extensive since everybody in the union is included. In the 20th century you could see that lockouts were effective but lately they have shown to be less effective. The reason seems to be that unions have quite a good reserve so that they can manage a pretty long lockout.  

It is a strategy that is hard to balance since there will be a lack of production which can lead to customers, users or other companies starting to do business with others to make sure that their business doesn´t get hurt by the strike. Another weapon for employers in a strike is to threaten to shut down or move the business to another town or country.  

Union Strategy

To call a full-blown strike is often the last attempt in a conflict. Unions try to get their way before having to call a strike by setting a date when they are calling the strike if the employer hasn´t agreed to their terms. The date is often adjacent to when a treaty is to be done. When the date is set, they tell who´s going to be affected by it. The strike can be for a whole branch or limited to key persons in a specific area. For example, if a union in transportation calls a strike, they can start with, maybe trains and then trucks will follow. The highest stage of a strike is a general strike. That is when the whole society is affected. The first wild general strike was in France in 1968. Besides using strike, the unions can use demonstrations, work blocks or encourage civil disobedience. It is not unusual that different unions sympathise with each other. An example of that can be the transport sector striking and getting support to their cause from forest unions.