Strike! Chicago

[This text was originally published in AREA Chicago #7 in December 2008]

Arguably, Chicago has one of the richest labor histories in the United States. The timeline below focuses on strikes and campaigns in Chicago (and Illinois) during the last 30 years. These workers actions are inspiring, empowering, and a constant reminder that the struggle for dignity is often found in workers uniting.


Workers (members of United Auto Workers) go on a 5 month strike against International Harvester Company after IH sold Wisconsin Steel.


5,000 Chicago Firefighters (members of the Chicago Fire Fighters Union) strike on Valentine’s day. The strike lasts 15 days.


Nationwide Air Traffic Controllers Strike. Workers in Chicago who went on strike lost their jobs.


170 teachers in Lake Zurich, IL go on strike.

267 teachers in Bremen Township District 228 (southwest suburbs) go on strike.

100 teachers of the Hamilton County Community School District 10 (southern IL go on strike).

110 teachers in Paris, IL go on strike.


Cemetery workers (members of the Service Employees International Union, Local 106) go on a 17 day strike.

1,000 printers, mailers, and press operators walk off the job at the ?Chicago Tribune.


28,000 teachers and other workers (members of the Chicago Teachers Union) go on a month long strike. Teachers won pay increases and a reduction in class size.


9,000 employees (nationwide) of Greyhound Bus Lines go on strike. Two people were injured in Chicago by flying glass when a sniper fired two shots at a Greyhound bus.


Members of Local 106 of the Service Employees Union walk out at 4 cemeteries seeking pay increases. Workers were locked out at 22 other cemeteries.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra goes on a 17 day strike.


North Chicago teachers (members of the Illinois Federation of Teachers) go on strike.

Workers at A.E. Staley Manufacturing Company in Decatur, IL are locked out.


7,500 Workers at Caterpillar Inc. plants in East Peoria, Decatur, Mapleton, and Pontiac go on strike.

The “Save Brach’s Coalition of Chicago” hits full stride with community and political leaders urging Brach’s Candy Company to not shut its doors. Workers (members of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 738) fought to save their jobs.


Workers at United Parcel Service (members of the Teamsters) go on strike across the country (including in Chicago).

Bricklayers (members of Bricklayer’s Union Local 27) go on strike seeking a pay increase.


National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians planned to go on a 24 hour strike over health benefits. The result was Channel 7 locking out 150 camera persons, technicians, writers and producers.


5,200 commercial performers (members of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) went on a five month strike over rates paid for advertisements. The strikers picketed Ford (who was placing ads with non-union performers), and delivery truck drivers (members of Teamsters Local 705 of Chicago and Local 142) of Gary refused to cross a picket line set up at a Ford Motor plant in Chicago. 1,200 Ford workers were sent home.

5,000 suburban janitors (members of Service Employees International Union Local 1) go on strike to get wage increases and health care coverage.


14 stagehands and shop workers (Theatrical Stage Employees Local 2) at the Goodman Theatre go on strike over wages and the scope of their first union contract.


5,000 hotel workers march on Michigan Avenue as part of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union’s Hungry for Justice Campaign. The hotel workers win a contract with wage increases, and paid sick days.

6 members of Service Employees International Union Local 880 get arrested in the lobby of the State of Illinois building protesting $50 million budget cuts affecting home healthcare workers.

Day laborers go on strike shutting down temporary agencies all over this city.


Teachers in Park Ridge, IL go on strike.

3,300 waste haulers (represented by Teamsters Locals 731 and 301) go on a 9 day strike and win wage increases.

Workers at the Congress Plaza Hotel (affiliated with Local 1 of UNITE HERE), go on strike after wages and benefits are cut. The strike still continues.


55 workers employed by Berg Manufacturing and Sales (members of United Electrical Workers Local 1102) go on strike over overtime pay and firing policies. A week later they win their first union contract.

750 faculty and staff (members of Cook County College Teachers Union, Local 1600) of City Colleges of Chicago go on strike over workload increases.

190 reporters, copy editors and other newsroom personnel of the Chicago Sun-Times (affiliated with the Chicago Newspaper Guild) threatened to strike. A last minute contract was reached giving workers pay increases, and an additional employer health care contribution.

Teachers in Machesney Park, IL go on a ?9 day strike.

Workers represented by Pipe Fitters’ Association, Local Union 597 picket a Wal-Mart being built in Antioch, IL. Wal-mart brought in non-union labor from Texas to complete the construction.


1,200 Walgreen’s pharmacists go on strike over low staffing levels and growing workloads.

1,800 workers (members of United Association of Steamfitters, Local 601) go on a two week strike.

The Chicago General Membership Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World labor union (IWW) called for an informational picket to boycott the Ideal Hand Car Wash for refusing to pay a member’s wages.

Couriers of Arrow Messenger Service held a two hour radio silence winning higher commissions.


45 city workers (members of Operating Engineers Local 150 ) in West Chicago, including building inspectors, public works employees and some clerical staff go on a 5 week strike and win salary increases.

53 drug treatment counselors (represented by AFSCME Local 472) at Sheridan Correctional Center in Sheridan, IL (about 70 miles from Chicago) go on strike because of failed contract negotiations with a state vendor Gateway Foundation.

An estimated 450,000 workers march on May 1st as part of the national “Day Without Immigrants” action. The economic effects of the action included companies like McDonald’s, Tyson’s Foods, and Perdue Farms suspending deliveries and closing for the day.

Baristas at the Logan Square Starbucks join the IWW Starbucks Workers Union.


Teachers in Machesney Park, IL go on two week strike.

Workers (members of United Auto Workers) at International Truck and Engine in Warrenville, IL go on a seven week strike.

Coalition of Immokalee Workers come to Chicago on the “Truth Tour”.


200 laid-off workers occupy Republic Windows and Doors factory for five days. Workers win eight weeks’ salary, vacation pay and two months’ severance.


3,000 union members rally for the passing of the Employee Free Choice Act.

Please send me additions to ?be placed on this timeline at

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