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strike / strīk/ • v. (past struck / strək/ ) 1. [tr.] hit forcibly and deliberately with one's hand or a weapon or other implement: he raised his hand, as if to strike me one man was struck on the head with a stick | [intr.] Edgar struck out at her. ∎  inflict (a blow): he struck her two blows on the leg. ∎  accidentally hit (a part of one's body) against something: she fell, striking her head against the side of the boat. ∎  come into forcible contact or collision with: he was struck by a car on Whitepark Road. ∎  (of a beam or ray of light or heat) fall on (an object or surface): the light struck her ring, reflecting off the diamond. ∎  (in sporting contexts) hit or kick (a ball) so as to score a run, point, or goal: he struck the ball into the back of the net. ∎  [intr.] (of a clock) indicate the time by sounding a chime or stroke: the church clock struck twelve. ∎  ignite (a match) by rubbing it briskly against an abrasive surface. ∎  produce (fire or a spark) as a result of friction: his iron stick struck sparks from the pavement. ∎  bring (an electric arc) into being. ∎  produce (a musical note) by pressing or hitting a key. 2. [tr.] (of a disaster, disease, or other unwelcome phenomenon) occur suddenly and have harmful or damaging effects on: an earthquake struck the island | [intr.] tragedy struck when he was killed in a car crash | [as adj. in comb.] (struck) storm-struck areas. ∎  [intr.] carry out an aggressive or violent action, typically without warning: it was eight months before the murderer struck again. ∎  (usu. be struck down) kill or seriously incapacitate (someone): he was struck down by a mystery virus. ∎  (strike something into) cause or create a particular strong emotion in (someone): drugs—a subject guaranteed to strike fear into parents' hearts. ∎  [tr.] cause (someone) to be in a specified state: he was struck dumb. 3. [tr.] (of a thought or idea) come into the mind of (someone) suddenly or unexpectedly: a disturbing thought struck Melissa. ∎  cause (someone) to have a particular impression: it struck him that Marjorie was unusually silent the idea struck her as odd. ∎  (be struck by/with) find particularly interesting, noticeable, or impressive: Lucy was struck by the ethereal beauty of the scene. 4. [intr.] (of employees) refuse to work as a form of organized protest, typically in an attempt to obtain a particular concession or concessions from their employer: workers may strike over threatened job losses. ∎  [tr.] undertake such action against (an employer). 5. [tr.] cancel, remove, or cross out with or as if with a pen: strike his name from the list | striking words through with a pen. ∎  (strike someone off) officially remove someone from membership of a professional group: he had been struck off as a disgrace to the profession. ∎  (strike something down) abolish a law or regulation: the law was struck down by the Supreme Court. 6. [tr.] make (a coin or medal) by stamping metal. ∎  (in cinematography) make (another print) of a film. ∎  reach, achieve, or agree to (something involving agreement, balance, or compromise): the team has struck a deal with a sports marketing agency you have to strike a happy medium. ∎  (in financial contexts) reach (a figure) by balancing an account: last year's loss was struck after allowing for depreciation of 67 million dollars. ∎  Can. form (a committee): the government struck a committee to settle the issue. 7. [tr.] discover (gold, minerals, or oil) by drilling or mining. ∎  [intr.] (strike on/upon) discover or think of, esp. unexpectedly or by chance: pondering, she struck upon a brilliant idea. ∎  come to or reach: several days out of the village, we struck the Gilgit Road. 8. [intr.] move or proceed vigorously or purposefully: she struck out into the lake with a practiced crawl he struck off down the track. ∎  (strike out) start out on a new or independent course or endeavor: after two years he was able to strike out on his own. 9. [tr.] take down (a tent or the tents of an encampment): it took ages to strike camp. ∎  dismantle (theatrical scenery): the minute we finish this evening, they'll start striking the set. ∎  lower or take down (a flag or sail), esp. as a salute or to signify surrender: the ship struck her German colors. 10. [tr.] insert (a cutting of a plant) in soil to take root. ∎  [intr.] (of a plant or cutting) develop roots: small conifers will strike from cuttings. ∎  [intr.] (of a young oyster) attach itself to a bed. 11. [intr.] Fishing secure a hook in the mouth of a fish by jerking or tightening the line after it has taken the bait or fly. • n. 1. a refusal to work organized by a body of employees as a form of protest, typically in an attempt to gain a concession or concessions from their employer: dockers voted for an all-out strike| local government workers went on strike | [as adj.] strike action. ∎  a refusal to do something expected or required, typically by a body of people, with a similar aim: a rent strike. 2. a sudden attack, typically a military one: the threat of nuclear strikes. ∎  (in bowling) an act of knocking down all the pins with one's first ball. ∎  Fishing an act or instance of jerking or tightening the line to secure a fish that has already taken the bait or fly. 3. a discovery of gold, minerals, or oil by drilling or mining: the Lena goldfields strike of 1912. 4. Baseball a pitch that is counted against the batter, in particular one that the batter swings at and misses, or that passes through the strike zone without the batter swinging, or that the batter hits foul (unless two strikes have already been called). A batter accumulating three strikes is out. ∎  a pitch that passes through the strike zone and is not hit. ∎  something to one's discredit: when they returned from Vietnam they had two strikes against them. 5. the horizontal or compass direction of a stratum, fault, or other geological feature. 6. short for fly strike. PHRASES: strike a balancesee balance. strike a blow for (or at/against) do something to help (or hinder) a cause, belief, or principle: just by finishing the race, she hopes to strike a blow for womankind. strike a chordsee chord2 . strike at the root (or roots) ofsee root1 . strike hands archaic (of two people) clasp hands to seal a deal or agreement. strike homesee home. strike it rich inf. acquire a great deal of money, typically in a sudden or unexpected way. strike a pose (or attitude) hold one's body in a particular position to create an impression: striking a dramatic pose, Antonia announced that she was leaving. strike while the iron is hot make use of an opportunity immediately. PHRASAL VERBS: strike back 1. retaliate: he struck back at critics who claim he is too negative. 2. (of a gas burner) burn from an internal point before the gas has become mixed with air. strike in archaic intervene in a conversation or discussion. strike someone out (or strike out) Baseball put a batter out (or be put out) from play as a batter by means of three strikes. ∎  (strike out) inf. fail or be unsuccessful: the company struck out the first time it tried to manufacture personal computers. strike up (or strike something up) (of a band or orchestra) begin to play a piece of music: they struck up the “Star-Spangled Banner” ∎  (strike something up) begin a friendship or conversation with someone, typically in a casual way.

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A work stoppage; the concerted refusal of employees to perform work that their employer has assigned to them in order to force the employer to grant certain demanded concessions, such as increased wages or improved employment conditions.

A work stoppage is generally the last step in a labor-management dispute over wages and working conditions. Because employees are not paid when they go on strike and employers lose productivity, both sides usually seek to avoid it. When negotiations have reached an impasse, however, a strike may be the only bargaining tool left for employees.

Employees can strike for economic reasons, for improvement of their working conditions, or for the mutual aid and protection of employees in another union. In addition, even if they do not have a union, employees can properly agree to stop working as a group; in that case they are entitled to all the protections that organized strikers are afforded.

labor unions do not have the right to use a strike to interfere with management prerogatives or with policies that the employer is entitled to make that do not directly concern the employment relationship. A strike must be conducted in an orderly manner and cannot be used as a shield for violence or crime. Intimidation and coercion during the course of a strike are unlawful.

Federal Labor Law

The development of labor unions in the nineteenth century was met by employer hostility. The concept of collective bargaining between employer and employee was viewed as antithetical to the right of individual workers and their employers to negotiate wages and working conditions—a concept known as liberty of contract. When unions did strike, they were left to deal with management without legal protections. Employers fired strikers and obtained injunctions from courts that ordered unions to end the strike or risk contempt of court.

The unequal bargaining power of unions was remedied in the 1930s with the passage of two important federal labor laws. In 1932, Congress passed the norris-laguardia act (29 U.S.C.A. §§ 101 et seq.), which severely limited the power of federal courts to issue injunctions in labor disputes. The act imposed strict procedural limitations and safeguards to prevent abuses by the courts. The National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act) of 1935 (29 U.S.C.A. §§ 151 et seq.) clearly established the right of employees to form, join, or aid labor unions. The act authorized collective bargaining by unions and gave employees the right to participate in "concerted actions" to bargain collectively. The major concerted action was the right to strike.

Federal labor laws require a 60-day waiting period before workers can strike to force termination or modification of an existing collective bargaining agreement. The terms of the agreement remain in full force and effect during this period, and any employee who strikes can be fired. The 60-day "cooling-off period" begins when the union serves notice on the employer or when the existing contract ends. This provision does not affect the right of employees to strike in protest of some unfair labor practice of their employer. It does help to prevent premature strikes, however.


Strikes can be divided into two basic types: economic and unfair labor practice. An economic strike seeks to obtain some type of economic benefit for the workers, such as improved wages and hours, or to force recognition of their union. An unfair labor practice strike is called to protest some act of the employer that the employees regard as unfair.

A Lexicon of Labor Strikes

Over the years different types of labor strikes have acquired distinctive labels. The following are the most common types of strikes, some of which are illegal:

  • Wildcat strike A strike that is not authorized by the union that represents the employees. Although not illegal under law, wildcat strikes ordinarily constitute a violation of an existing collective bargaining agreement.
  • Walkout An unannounced refusal to perform work. A walkout may be spontaneous or planned in advance and kept secret. If the employees' conduct is an irresponsible or indefensible method of accomplishing their goals, a walkout is illegal. In other situations courts may rule that the employees have a good reason to strike.
  • Slowdown An intermittent work stoppage by employees who remain on the job. Slowdowns are illegal because they give the employees an unfair bargaining advantage by making it impossible for the employer to plan for production by the workforce. An employer may discharge an employee for a work slowdown.
  • Sitdown strike A strike in which employees stop working and refuse to leave the employer's premises. Sitdown strikes helped unions organize workers in the automobile industry in the 1930s but are now rare. They are illegal under most circumstances.
  • Whipsaw strike A work stoppage against a single member of a bargaining unit composed of several employers. Whipsaw strikes are legal and are used by unions to bring added pressure against the employer who experiences not only the strike but also competition from the employers who have not been struck. Employers may respond by locking out employees of all facilities that belong to members of the bargaining unit. Whipsaw strikes have commonly been used in the automobile industry.
  • Sympathy strike A work stoppage designed to provide aid and comfort to a related union engaged in an employment dispute. Although sympathy strikes are not illegal, unions can relinquish the right to use this tactic in a collective bargaining agreement.
  • Jurisdictional strike A strike that arises from a dispute over which labor union is entitled to represent the employees. Jurisdictional strikes are unlawful under federal labor laws because the argument is between unions and not between a union and the employer.

When employees strike, the employer may continue operating the business and can hire replacement workers. Upon settlement of an unfair labor practice strike, the strikers must be reinstated as soon as they offer unconditionally to return to work, even if the replacement workers must be fired.

In economic strikes, however, the employer is not required to take back the strikers immediately upon the settlement of the dispute. Economic strikers are still categorized as employees and are entitled to reinstatement in the event vacancies occur, but the employer does not have to reinstate any worker who has found substantially equivalent work elsewhere or who has given the employer a legitimate and substantial reason for not reinstating that worker. The hiring of permanent replacement workers has become an important management weapon against economic strikes, giving the employer the ability to hire a nonunion workforce and to threaten the local union with destruction. U.S. labor unions have been unsuccessful in persuading Congress to amend the National Labor Relations Act to provide immediate job reinstatement to economic strikers.

An employee has no right to be paid while on strike, nor does the employee have a right to claim unemployment compensation benefits, unless state law provides the benefit. Employees who refuse to cross a picket line on principle are treated in the same way as strikers, but those who are kept from their jobs through fear of violence are entitled to collect unemployment compensation.

Employees forfeit their right to maintain the employment relationship if their strike is illegal. For example, public employees are generally forbidden to strike. If they do, they risk dismissal. In 1981, President ronald reagan responded to an illegal strike by federal air traffic controllers by dismissing more than ten thousand employees.

Ordinarily, however, a strike is legal if employees are using it to exert economic pressure upon their employer in order to improve the conditions of their employment. A strike is unlawful if it is directed at someone other than the employer or if it is used for some other purpose. Federal law prohibits most boycotts or picketing directed at a party not involved in the primary dispute. These tactics are known as secondary boycotts or secondary picketing, and they are strictly limited so that businesses that are innocent bystanders will not become victims in a labor dispute that they cannot resolve.

Unlawful Tactics

Picketing can be regulated by statute because of the potential for violence inherent in this activity. Mass picketing is unlawful under federal law because large unruly crowds could be used for the purpose of intimidation. Employees are entitled to picket in small numbers outside the employer's facilities, but they cannot block entrances or demonstrate in front of an employer's home. Picketing is lawful when it is used to inform the public, the employer, or other workers about the dispute. However, it cannot be used to threaten people or to provoke violence.

A strike is generally lawful if it is peaceful. A strike is never a legal excuse for violence, and acts of physical violence and damage to property will be viewed as criminal acts. Employers who use violence against strikers are subject to the same penalties.

A union or an employer can be fined or adjudged guilty of an unfair labor practice and ordered to cease and desist when violent actions occur. An injunction from a state court can stop the strike or picketing. Because no labor disputes can proceed without minor problems, an isolated minor incident, such as name-calling or a shove, does not end the right to strike.

Union Members

Labor unions can fine or expel members who cross picket lines, fail to honor a lawful strike, or indulge in violence during a strike. In addition, they can discipline members for conduct antagonistic to the union, such as spying for the employer or participating in an unauthorized strike. A union member is entitled to a written notice of specific charges against him and a full and fair hearing before he can be expelled.


Strikes are ordinarily settled by negotiation between the employer and the employees or the union that represents them. An employer who does not want to engage in negotiations can cease operations entirely. However, an employer cannot avoid bargaining by relocating or by assigning the same work to another plant owned by the company. If the employer and employees bargain in good faith, they generally settle their differences and sign a collective bargaining agreement.

further readings

Smith, Robert Michael, and Scott Molloy. 2003. From Blackjacks to Briefcases: A History of Commercialized Strike-breakingand Unionbusting in the United States. Athens: Ohio Univ. Press.

Zinn, Howard. 2002. Three Strikes: Miners, Musicians, Salesgirls and the Fighting Spirit of Labor's Lost Century. Boston: Beacon Press.


Labor Law.

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strike, concentrated work stoppage by a group of employees, the chief weapon of organized labor. A suspension of work on the employer's part is called a lockout. Strikes usually result from conflicts of interest between the employer, who seeks to reduce costs, and employees, who seek higher wages (or in times of depression try to stop wage decreases), shorter hours, better working conditions, union recognition, and/or improved fringe benefits. Employers may attempt to continue operation without the striking employees, and in such cases violence may occur. Violence, long a feature of U.S. labor history, often resulted from the use of armed guards (hired by the employer) or of police or state militia against pickets (see picketing) or for the protection of strikebreakers. During the middle and late 1930s workers in the mass-production industries (especially in the automobile industry) perfected the technique of the sit-down, later declared illegal, which was designed to prevent strikebreaking; the workers remained on the premises while refusing to work. Another cause of strikes has been the jurisdictional dispute to determine which union should be the bargaining agent for the employees. After the separation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations from the American Federation of Labor in 1935 (see American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations), such strikes were numerous until they were forbidden by the Taft-Hartley Labor Act in 1947.

Strikes in the United States

Work stoppages in North America date from colonial times, but the first documented strike for higher wages seems to have been by printers in Philadelphia (1786), who demanded a minimum wage of $6 per week. Philadelphia's Journeymen Cordwainers became the first union to be convicted of engaging in a criminal conspiracy when they went on strike in 1806. Until the 1930s, when New Deal legislation gave unions the right to organize and strike, U.S. courts frequently ruled that strikes were illegal and issued injunctions to force employees back to work.

The first nationwide strike occurred in 1877, when railroad workers struck in the middle of an economic depression. With the advent in the 1880s of such labor organizations as the Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor, strikes became more frequent. Some of the more important industry-wide strikes in the United States have been those waged by the railroad employees in 1877 and 1894, by the United Mine Workers in 1902 and 1946–47, by the steel workers in 1919, 1937, 1952, and 1959, and by the auto workers in 1937 and 1946. Important local strikes have included those of the Western Federation of Miners in the early 20th cent. and of the Teamsters Union in Minneapolis in 1934.

The 1960s and 70s witnessed an increasing number of strikes by public employees, notably teachers, municipal workers, police officers, and firefighters, but generally the tendency in the United States after World War II has been toward fewer strikes. The number of strikes dropped from a record high of 470 involving 1,000 workers or more in 1952, when 2.7 million workers went on strike, to a record low of 29 in 1997, when 339,000 workers struck. (In 1988 only 118,000 workers went out on strike, but there were 40 strikes involving 1,000 workers or more.) In the 1980s employers increasingly adopted the tactic of replacing striking union workers with nonunion workers; in 1981, for example, President Reagan ordered the replacement of 8,590 members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization when they went on strike.

Strikes in Other Countries

Strikes have been frequent in all industrialized countries where labor has the right to freedom of action. In Great Britain, where the Industrial Revolution occurred first, strikes of various sorts took place during the 19th cent.; these include the antimachine riots of the Luddites, the successful work stoppage in 1889 by the London dockworkers, and the bitter and unsuccessful strikes by coal miners in 1898 and 1926, the latter leading to a general strike. The general strike, more successful in countries where labor unions are more closely linked to political parties than in the United States, has nevertheless also been attempted in cities there. Work stoppages have also occurred under authoritarian regimes (which often legally forbid strikes) as protests against both economic and political disabilities. Strikes against foreign owners of mines and oil fields have occurred at various times in Mexico, Bolivia, Chile, Venezuela, and Iran. The strike has also been used as a political weapon in the movements for independence in Asia and Africa.


See T. R. Brooks, Toil and Trouble (1971); H. H. Hart, The Strike (1971); J. Brecher, Strike! (1972); F. Peterson, Strikes in the United States, 1880–1936 (1937, repr. 1972); P. K. Edwards, Strikes in the United States, 1881–1974 (1981); Labor Conflict in the United States: An Encyclopedia (1990).

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A strike is a concentrated effort by a group of workers, to withhold their labor from their employer, for the purpose of creating favorable changes in wages, benefits, or working condition, or for winning employer recognition of labor union representation. There are different forms of strikes. A primary strike is a work stoppage aimed at an employer, directly. A sympathy strike is one where employees refuse to work in sympathy with others who are directly involved in a dispute. A sit-down strike happens when workers stop work and refuse to leave the employer's premises in order to prevent the hiring of replacements. A wildcat strike is one that occurs spontaneously, without formal union authorization. A general strike is an effort to stimulate a general work stoppage and has political overtones. All of these strikes have been common in the United States, with the possible exception of the general strike; a technique most often practiced in Europe, and Third World countries.

Strikes began to occur with some regularity in the United States in the nineteenth century and were regarded as illegal because they restrained trade. Any kind of strike is a test of economic strength and will. A union tries to prevent business operations and cause a loss of profits to the employer, in order to force changes. The employer tries to maintain profitability and maintain operations hoping pressures from loss of pay rise enough to force workers to return to work. During a strike the striking employees, often represented by a union, will attempt to prevent the employer form operations by picketing the employer's facilities. Picketing is the walking back and forth outside of the employer's premises by union members on strike, carrying picket signs with short statements on them relating to the issues of the strike. Picketing becomes a public announcement of the existence of a labor dispute. It also serves the purpose of giving notice to other workers and the public, asking them in effect not to cross the picket line. While on strike workers generally receive "strike benefits" from their union, a small money stipend to help them with necessary expenses while remaining committed to continuing the strike until a settlement is reached. During the 1990s there were roughly 3000 to 5000 strikes per year, most of them a result of unsuccessful contract negotiations.

See also: Collective Bargaining, Labor Unionism, Sit-Down Strike

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strikealike, bike, dyke, haik, hike, kike, like, mic, mike, mislike, pike, psych, psyche, shrike, spike, strike, trike, tyke, Van Dyck, vandyke •pushbike • motorbike • Klondike •Thorndike • Updike • hitchhike •crablike • lamblike •fanlike, manlike, panlike •trap-like • catlike • starlike • calf-like •glass-like, grass-like •branch-like • plant-like • thread-like •gem-like • deathlike • waiflike •vein-like • wraithlike • fiendlike •leaf-like • dreamlike • queen-like •sheeplike • witchlike • sylphlike •piglike •springlike, string-like, wing-like •lip-like • princelike • ladylike •businesslike • lifelike • childlike •Christlike, vice-like •knob-like •godlike, rod-like •doglike • rock-like • swanlike •foxlike • warlike • lord-like •horselike • globe-like •dome-like, homelike •ghostlike • rose-like • toylike •root-like • tooth-like • hood-like •wolf-like • hook-like •wool-like • suchlike • sponge-like •nunlike, sunlike •dovelike • lion-like • flower-like •soundalike • lookalike •statesmanlike • seamanlike •sportsmanlike • womanlike •workmanlike • fatherlike • worm-like •handspike • garpike • marlinspike •turnpike

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strike A form of industrial action involving withdrawal of labour such as to constitute a temporary breach of the employment contract. Effective strike action means preventing the use of an alternative labour-force, usually through picketing the workplace, so causing the partial or total cessation of production until the matter in dispute is favourably resolved. Strikes are the characteristic sanction of trade unions and in this form are often characterized as official. Unofficial or wild-cat strikes arise from spontaneous, even unorganized walk-outs or action, by unrecognized rank-and-file leaders. Strikes are also used as a method of social and political protest, the withdrawal of labour or co-operation aimed at influencing government or state policies. Hence the ‘political strike’ or, where all or much of the population is involved, the ‘general strike’. See also INDUSTRIAL CONFLICT; KERR-SIEGEL HYPOTHESIS.

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strike pt., pp. struck (see also STRICKEN)
A. move, go (now with restriction);

B. (obs. or dial.) stroke, smooth OE.;

C. lower (a sail, etc.);

D. deal a blow XIII; impinge (upon) XIV;

E. settle, arrange XVI (partly from phr. s. hands XV, partly from L. fœdus ferire strike a treaty); F. refuse to work (perh. f. s. tools) XVIII. OE. str. vb. strīcan = MLG. strīken, (M)Du. strijken, OHG. strīhhan (G. streichen); WGmc. deriv. of *strī́k- *straik- :- IE. *strig- *streig- *stroig-.

Hence strike sb. from XIII in various techn. applications.

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1. (noun) The compass direction of a horizontal line on an inclined plane (i.e. it is at right angles to the angle of inclination, known as the dip). (verb) To lie in the direction of such a line.

2. (noun) The discovery of an economically valuable source of a mineral. (verb) To make such a discovery.

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strike (noun) The compass direction of a horizontal line on an inclined plane. (verb) To lie in the direction of such a line.

2. (noun) The discovery of an economically valuable source of a mineral. (verb) To make such a discovery.

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Strike ★★★½ 1924

Eisenstein's debut, and a silent classic. Stirring look at a 1912 clash between striking factory workers and Czarist troops. 94m/B VHS, DVD . RU Alexander Antonov, Yudif Glizer, Ivan Klyukvin, Grigori Aleksandrov; D: Sergei Eisenstein; W: Grigori Aleksandrov, Sergei Eisenstein; C: Eduard Tisse.