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A sit-down strike is a labour strike and a form of civil disobedience in which an organized group of workers, usually employed at factories or other centralized locations, take unauthorized or illegal possession of the workplace by "sitting down" at their stations.

The attraction of the tactic is that it prevents employers from replacing them with strikebreakers or removing equipment to transfer production to other locations. Neal Ascherson has commented that an additional attraction is that it emphasizes the role of workers in providing for the people and allows workers to in effect hold valuable machinery hostage as a bargaining chip.[1][verification needed]

Workers have used the technique since the beginning of the 20th century in countries such as United States, Italy, Poland, Croatia, and France. However, sit-down strikes are now uncommon.

Notable examplesEdit

The radical syndicalist group Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) were the first American union to use the sit-down strike. On December 10, 1906, at the General Electric Works in Schenectady, New York, 3,000 workers sat down on the job and stopped production to protest the dismissal of three fellow IWW members.[2] The three fired IWW members were ultimately rehired.[3]

The United Auto Workers staged successful[clarification needed] sit-down strikes in the 1930s, most famously in the Flint Sit-Down Strike of 1936–1937. In Flint, Michigan, strikers occupied several General Motors plants for more than forty days, and repelled the efforts of the police and National Guard to retake them. A wave of sit-down strikes followed but diminished by the end of the decade as the courts and the National Labor Relations Board held that sit-down strikes were illegal and sit-down strikers could be fired (see the 1939 Supreme Court ruling in NLRB v. Fansteel Metallurgical Corp.). While some sit-down strikes still occur in the United States, they tend to be spontaneous and short-lived.

French workers engaged in a number of factory occupations in the wake of the French student revolt in May 1968. At one point more than twenty-five percent of French workers were on strike, many of them occupying their factories.[citation needed]

In 1973, the workers at the Triumph Motorcycles factory at Meriden, West Midlands, locked the new owners, NVT, out following the announcement of their plan to close Meriden.[4] The sit-in lasted over a year until the British government intervened, the result of which was the formation of the Meriden Motorcycle Co-operative[4] which produced Triumphs until their closure in 1983.[citation needed]

The sit-down strike was the inspiration for the sit-in, where an organized group of protesters would occupy an area in which they are not wanted by sitting and refuse to leave until their demands are met.

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Ascherson 1983.
  2. ^ Dubofsky 2000, p. 71; Watson 2005, p. 54.
  3. ^ McGerr 2010, p. 141.
  4. ^ a b Brooke 2002, p. 148.


Ascherson, Neal (1983). What Has Happened in Poland?.
Brooke, Lindsay (2002). Triumph: A Century of Passion and Power. Saint Paul, Minnesota: Motorbooks. ISBN 978-0-7603-0456-3.
Dubofsky, Melvyn (2000). McCartin, Joseph Anthony (ed.). We Shall Be All: A History of the Industrial Workers of the World (abridged ed.). Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-02595-2.
McGerr, Michael (2010). A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America. Simon and Schuster.
Watson, Bruce (2005). Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream. New York: Viking. ISBN 978-0-670-03397-3.