A strike is the refusal of an organized body of working men to continue their work except on certain conditions. Some people denounce strikes as always wrong and foolish and even say they should be forbidden by law and put down by force. Such people know nothing of the history of strikes, nor of the great benefits have they secured for the working classes.
Strikes are a natural result or our modern industrial system. They came into fashion with the present age of machinery and large factories. Before workmen had learnt the secret of combination, they were at the mercy of rich and powerful employers who kept wages low and forced them to work for long hours. They could do this, because each individual workman, poor and ignorant, was no match for a rich and influential employer. If he did not agree to employer’s hard terms, he could be dismissed; and there were dozens ready to take his place. He must submit or starve.
Then the workmen learnt that unity is strength and they banded themselves into organized societies called Trade Unions. Formerly, when a singly workman demanded higher wages, he was promptly kicked out; but when all workmen in a factory struck in a body, or refused to work unless higher wages were given, the employers usually had to give in sooner of late or ruin his business.
But, of course, there are evils and dangers connected with strikes. Even when they are successful, they cause a lot of suffering to the workmen themselves, great damage and hardship to the public and, when they fail, they often make matters worse than they are before. Sometimes, too, they are unjustifiable and tyrannical. In fact, we may say that they like wars are necessary evils in present state of society. Sometimes, wars are necessary and so are strikes. It will be a blessing when all industrial disputes and all international quarrels are settled by arbitration.