Restrictions on the Right to Strike

July 10, 1937

Report Outline
Great Increase of Strike Activity in 1937
Struggle for Legalization of the Strike
Public Interests and the Right to Strike
Compulsory Arbitration and Strikes
Special Focus

Great Increase of Strike Activity in 1937

Strikes in the United States during the first half of 1937, coincident with the intensive organizing campaigns of the Committee for Industrial Organization, reflected a degree of labor unrest unequalled since the period of the World War and the immediately following years. For the first quarter of 1937 the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded nearly 1,000 strikes, or almost half as many as occurred in the whole year 1936. By far the largest proportion of these controversies began in March, the number of strikes in that month being greater than in any single month during the last 20 years. Though somewhat lower, the totals for both April and May remained high. If this trend continues, the number of strikes in 1937 may exceed the peak figure of 4,450 recorded in 1917, although it is less likely that the number of workers involved will reach the 1919 peak of 4,160,348.

The decade 1923–1932 was a period of relative quiet on the labor front. In 1930, the low year, there were only 637 strikes involving together less than 200,000 workers. The rise of industrial activity after 1932 was accompanied, however, by an increasing number of strikes. The figure rose from 841 in 1932 to 1,695 in 1933, to 1,856 in 1934, to 2,014 in 1935, and to 2,172 in 1936. Similarly, the number of workers involved jumped from 324,210 in 1932 to 1,168,272 in 1933 and to 1,466,695 in 1934. Although the number of strikes continued to rise in the next two years, the number of workers engaged therein dropped to 1,117,213 in 1935 and to 788,648 in 1936. The strike record is given in the following table by months from January, 1936, through May, 1937.

In March, 1937, as compared with March, 1936, the number of strikes increased 230 per cent, the number of workers involved 252 per cent, and the number of man-days lost 146 per cent. The largest strike was that of employees of the Chrysler Corporation, which began March 8 and ended April 6. Carrying over of this strike into April was partially responsible for the very large increase of 357 per cent in number of man-days idle that month, as compared with April, 1936. It was estimated in late June that about 100,000 men had been made idle by the great strike that started at plants of independent steel producers on May 26.

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Nov. 11, 1936  Industrial Unionism and the A.F. of L.
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