Collective refusal by employees to work under the conditions set by employers. Strikes may arise from disputes over wages and working conditions. They may also be conducted in sympathy with other striking workers, or for purely political goals. Many strikes are organized by labour unions; strikes not authorized by the union (wildcat strikes) may be directed against union leadership as well as the employer. The right to strike is granted in principle to workers in nearly all industrialized countries, and its use has paralleled the rise of labour unions since the 19th century. Most strikes are intended to inflict a cost to employers for failure to meet specific demands. Among Japanese unions, strikes are not intended to halt production for long periods of time and are more akin to demonstrations. In western Europe and elsewhere, workers have carried out general strikes aimed at winning changes in the political system rather than concessions from employers. The decision to call a strike does not come easily, because union workers risk a loss of income for long periods of time. They also risk the permanent loss of their jobs, especially when replacement workers hired to continue operations during the strike stay on as permanent employees. See also boycott; lockout.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on strike, visit

Seen & Heard

What made you look up strike? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.