For the short story by Isaac Asimov, see Strikebreaker (short story).
Pinkerton agents escort strikebreakers in Buchtel, Ohio, 1884

A strikebreaker (sometimes derogatorily called a scab, blackleg, or knobstick) is a person who works despite an ongoing strike. Strikebreakers are usually individuals who are not employed by the company prior to the trade union dispute, but rather hired after or during the strike to keep the organization running. "Strikebreakers" may also refer to workers (union members or not) who cross picket lines to work.

Strikebreakers are employed worldwide, often occurring wherever workers go on strike or engage in related actions. However, strikebreakers are used far more frequently in the United States than in any other industrialized country.[1] The Mohawk Valley formula calls for the use of strikebreakers when dealing with striking employees.

International law

Look up strikebreaker in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

The right to strike is not expressly mentioned in any convention of the International Labour Organization (ILO);[2] however, the ILO's Freedom of Association Committee established principles on the right to strike through ongoing rulings.[3] Among human rights treaties, only the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights contains a clause protecting the right to strike. However, like the Social Charter of 1961, the Covenant permits each signatory country to abridge the right to strike.[4]

The ILO Committee on Freedom of Association and other ILO bodies have, however, interpreted all core ILO conventions as protecting the right to strike as an essential element of the freedom of association. For example, the ILO has ruled that "the right to strike is an intrinsic corollary of the right of association protected by Convention No. 87."[5]

The ILO has also concluded striker replacement, while not in contravention of ILO agreements, carries with it significant risks for abuse and places trade union freedoms "in grave jeopardy."[5][6]

The European Social Charter of 1961 was the first international agreement to expressly protect the right to strike.[2] However, the European Union's Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers permits EU member states to regulate the right to strike.[7]

National laws

Strikebreakers outside the Chicago Tribune during a 1986 strike



In most European countries, strikebreakers are rarely used. Consequently, they are rarely if ever mentioned in most European national labor laws.[2] As mentioned above, it is left to the European Union member states to determine their own policies.[7]

North America


Strikebreaking is also known as "black-legging" or "blacklegging". American lexicographer Stephanie Smith suggests that the word has to do with bootblacking or shoe polish, for an early occurrence of the word was in conjunction with an 1803 American bootmaker's strike.[15] But British industrial relations expert J.G. Riddall notes that it may have a racist connotation, as it was used in this way in 1859 in the United Kingdom: "If you dare work we shall consider you as blacks..."[16] Lexicographer Geoffrey Hughes, however, notes that "blackleg" and "scab" are both references to disease, as in the blackleg infectious bacterial disease of sheep and cattle caused by Clostridium chauvoei. He dates the first use of the term "blackleg" in reference to strikebreaking to the United Kingdom in 1859. Hughes observes that the term was once generally used to indicate a scoundrel, a villain, or a disreputable person.[17]

Hughes notes that the use of the term "scab" can be traced back to the Elizabethan era in England, and is much more clearly rooted in the concept of disease (e.g., a diseased person) and a sickened appearance.[17]

See also


  1. Norwood, Strikebreaking and Intimidation, 2002.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Human Rights Watch, Unfair Advantage: Workers' Freedom of Association in the United States Under International Human Rights Standards, 2000.
  3. ILO principles concerning the right to strike 2000 ISBN 92-2-111627-1
  4. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 8 (4).
  5. 1 2 International Labour Organization, Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining: General Survey of the Reports... 1994.
  6. Committee on Freedom of Association, Digest of Decisions of the Committee on Freedom of Association, 2006.
  7. 1 2 Maastricht Treaty on European Union, Protocol and Agreement on Social Policy, February 7, 1992, 31 LL.M. 247, paragraph 13 under "Freedom of association and collective bargaining."
  8. Sugeno and Kanowitz, Japanese Employment and Labor Law, 2002; Dau-Schmidt, "Labor Law and Industrial Peace: A Comparative Analysis of the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan Under the Bargaining Model," Tulane Journal of International & Comparative Law, 2000.
  9. Parry, "Labour Law Draws Roar of Rage From Asian Tiger," The Independent, January 18, 1997.
  10. Körner, "German Labor Law in Transition," German Law Journal, April 2005; Westfall and Thusing, "Strikes and Lockouts in Germany and Under Federal Legislation in the United States: A Comparative Analysis," Boston College International & Comparative Law Review, 1999.
  11. Ewing, "Laws Against Strikes Revisited," in Future of Labour Law, 2004.
  12. Logan, "How 'Anti-Union' Laws Saved Canadian Labour: Certification and Striker Replacements in Post-War Industrial Relations," Relations Industrielles/Industrial Relations, January 2002.
  13. Quebec Labour Code Section 109.1
  14. Getman and Kohler, "The Story of NLRB v. Mackay Radio & Telegraph Co.," in Labor Law Stories, 2005.
  15. Smith, Household Words: Bloomers, Sucker, Bombshell, Scab, Nigger, Cyber, p. 98.
  16. Riddall, p. 209.
  17. 1 2 Hughes, p. 466.


This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/15/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.