Working In These Times

Friday, Jan 8, 2010, 12:18 pm  ·  By Roger Bybee

What Fuels Overseas Sit-Down Strikes?

Former employees of U.S. car components firm Visteon on the rooftop of the factory shortly before ending their occupation at the Enfield plant in north London, on April 9, 2009, in compliance with a high court order. Visteon, which used to be a major supplier to Ford, sparked anger by announcing 560 job losses blaming massive losses.   (Photo by MAX NASH/AFP/Getty Images)

In sharp contrast to the brass-knuckled capitalism of the U.S., workers in Western Europe enjoy legal protections that corporations must follow before they close or relocate production.

Under the "WARN Act," which was a major leverage point for workers who occupied the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago in December 2008., U.S. workers are merely owed 60 days advance notice of a factory closure. The lack of job protections has allowed employers to shift millions of jobs to the low-wage U.S. South, and increased corporate leverage to ratchet down union wages in the North.


Not only does U.S. law leave workers without a shield, it also deprives them of one of the most effective swords in stopping shutdowns: the occupation or sit-down strike. A vastly different situation prevails in Europe and elsewhere.