‘The strike is the essence of collective labour activity’, wrote former Clinton National Labour Relation Board recess appointee and legal scholar, Craig Becker (1994: 351). The National Labour Relation Act (NLRA) of 1935, which established the legal basis of collective bargaining for most of the private sector in the US, unequivocally guaranteed the right to strike. Furthermore, Becker notes the Supreme Court, as late as 1963, argued that the NLRA had upheld a system of collective bargaining ‘with the right to strike at its core’. Yet, beginning in the 1980s, the use of the strike has declined from year to year. The number of strikes has fallen from an average of over 5,000 a year in the 1970s to an annual average of fewer than 300 in the 2000s (see Table 13.1). How could such a huge decline in the use of labour’s ‘only true weapon’ (Logan 2008: 171) be explained? Were there alternative forms of industrial action that workers and their unions could deploy to pressure employers in the process of collective bargaining?
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