A Brief History of Strikes pt. 1

Throughout history many strikes have occurred. Striking is a form of protesting that employees use to express displeasure and it is also a forceful way to get employers to agree with their demands. Strikes usually take place when employees are unsatisfied with wages and/or working conditions that the employer provides. The first recorded strike in history took place in ancient Egypt on November 14, 1152 B.C. Artisans who were under the rule of Pharaoh Ramses III were outraged by the officials failure to provide them with their wheat rations. This resulted in the workers stopping everything and complaining until their demands were addressed by authorities. The first recorded strike in Egypt turned out to be successful, but it also led to many more strikes. Another strike that also turned out successful was the 1990 strike of the Stockton Unified School District teachers.

    The strike of the SUSD teachers happened on January 2, 1990 during the 1989-1990 school year. The night before the strike was declared a meeting was held and about 1,500 members that belonged to the Stockton teachers association voted to reject the district’s offer. On January 2, many teachers picketed outside of schools as students arrived. By the afternoon over 100 substitutes were hired to fill in and were paid $150 a day.  Each day as the strike grew, tensions between both parties grew worse. The district eventually gave in to Stockton Teacher’s Association and approved a new contract that granted the teachers a 6 percent raise. The teachers later returned to their classes after an exhausting 13 days of striking for better benefits and wages.

    Because of the National Labor Union in 1866 strikes have become a way that unions can protect their workers rights and safety. A perfect example would be Cesar Chavez in northern California and the United Farm Workers (UFW). Cesar Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) in 1962. This association later turned into the United Farm Workers which was co-founded by Dolores Huerta. Cesar Chavez wanted farm workers to be respected for their importance. “We demand to be treated like the men we are! We are not slaves and we are not animals,” he said. After many strikes this organization evolved into an union. Cesar Chavez wanted the union to have a symbol so he created a flag with the help of his brother, Richard Chavez. The flag was red and black with a black aztec eagle in the middle. Chavez said, “A symbol is an important thing. That is why we chose an Aztec eagle. It gives pride . . . When people see it they know it means dignity.” In 1970, grape growers accepted a 3 year contract thanks to the UFW. Cesar Chavez’s leadership and tactics in the Delano grape strike, during his fast and in the 340 mile march from Delano to Sacramento that he led proved how determined he was to help farm workers. Eventually in 1975, the California Agricultural Relations Act was passed

and established collective bargaining for farm workers in California.  

    Striking is a “make it or break it” type of situation. It can take days, weeks, to even months to perform a successful strike and in some cases it is unsuccessful. Those who perform strikes risk losing their job and pay, but it is a risk they are willing to take for a better tomorrow.