From: The Stream

The effectiveness of general strikes

What does it take to make a labour movement work?

March 8 is International Women’s Day. A day marked with celebrations honouring working women and calls for a more inclusive, gender equal world. But this year women are also being asked to take part in a worldwide labour strike, being called “a day without a woman” in response to US President Donald Trump’s policies. This is the second major strike since Trump’s inauguration – the first, “a day without immigrants”, was held on February 16.


But what is the goal of these strikes, and what are the repercussions? Alex Gourevitch, a political science professor and a critic of “a day without…” movements, believes the strikers are just pawns in someone else’s game. Gourevitch says, “If you’re going to ask people not just to risk losing their jobs but potentially face the armed apparatus of the state, there had better be preparation, leadership, and some evident readiness for mass labor actions.” That sentiment is shared by Rick Wartzman who thinks calling for a strike without any labour involvement is risky business. Wartzman says, “If we want to call for a strike and involve the working folks as part of the movement…they need to get experienced labour organisers and workers’ rights organisers involved so they know how to protect those people.” After some participants in the “day without an immigrants” lost their jobs, organisers of the Women’s March took note and say they’ve taken steps to include labour organisers. They remain optimistic that this day-long strike will be effective in keeping their movement going.


On the eve of International Women’s Day, we discuss the effectiveness of general strikes and whether “a day without a woman” has the ingredients for success. 


On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:


Ai-jen Poo @aijenpoo

Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance


Lamis Deek @Lamis_Deek
Member, National Planning Committee, Women’s Strike


Rick Wartzman @RWartzman

Senior advisor, Drucker Institute


Jennifer Klein

Professor of History, Yale University


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