Sympathy strike

Sympathy strike

A sympathy strike is a strike action that is initiated by workers in one industry and supported by workers in a separate but related industry or profession. Sympathy strikes are also called sympathy action, secondary strikes and secondary action.

The term sympathy strike implies that the purpose of the strike is to support, and express sympathy for, the primary strikers. In some cases, however, apparent sympathy strikes have been called for other reasons. For example, in Australia in the 1910s, sympathy strikes were sometimes called in order to extend a strike beyond the bounds of any one Australian state, thus making it eligible for handling by the Federal Arbitration Court.

In the United Kingdom, sympathy strikes were outlawed by the Trade Disputes and Trade Union Act of 1927. The laws outlawing secondary strikes remain to this day, even though the governing party is now the union-affiliated Labour Party. In 2005, union leaders in the U.K. called for the legalisation of secondary strikes in the aftermath of the strike action against the catering company Gate Gourmet but Labour ministers stated that they had no intention of repealing the law.

In the United States, the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 outlaws secondary strikes.


  • Kite, Melissa and Freinberg, Tony. "Unions to Challenge Blair Over Ban on Secondary Strikes." Daily Telegraph. August 27, 2005.

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