Yesterday, University of Minnesota students called a general assembly to stand in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin and to discuss what’s involved in a general strike. There have been calls in Madison for a general strike to stand up to the union-busting tactics of Governor Scott Walker. A general strike is very rare, but it did produce the eight-hour work day (1886 in Chicago, New York, Milwaukee) and unionized the auto industry and the west coast ports of the United States (both in 1934).
A general strike means that everyone walks off their jobs, defying the government, employers and the unions. Unions are prohibited from calling a general strike or organizing sympathy strikes. The general strike is a bottoms-up action, in that it is started and fueled by the grassroots workers. Many colleges in the Twin Cities staged walkouts at 2 p.m. on Friday March 11, but the U of M students also held a very serious discussion of possible radical actions in support of Wisconsin activists.