Largest Strike in World History?

Dec 2nd, 2016 • Category: Nation & World

By EVANGELINE COMEAU-KIRSCHNER, age 11

Among the 180 million workers who went on strike in India on September 2 were autorickshaw drivers.
Among the 180 million workers who went on strike in India on September 2 were autorickshaw drivers.

One hundred eighty million workers in India went on strike September 2, demanding better protection for all workers in India.

The one-day strike was one of the largest strikes in the history of the world and cost the Indian economy $2.7 billion. The strike affected electricity, banking and insurance operations across the country and disrupted public transportation.

The biggest trade unions in India led the strike, but their demands would affect the “informal economy” the most. Ninety percent of India’s workforce is in the informal economy, which includes bricklayers, housekeepers and food vendors. The minimum wage isn’t applied to informal workers, some of whom work “under the table” so their employers don’t have to pay taxes. These workers would benefit from the strike’s 12 demands, such as a minimum wage for unskilled laborers and protection from unemployment.

The strike was in response to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s economic plans, which strikers say are more focused on attracting foreign companies than
on workers’ rights. For example, one of Modi’s plans would make it easier for companies to fire workers.

Though the strike did not lead to immediate results and was not covered much in Indian and international news sources, supporters hope it will put pressure on the central government to improve labor laws.

Antara Haldar, a professor at the University of Cambridge, told the Los Angeles Times, “I am optimistic about the strike bringing the labor issue into the foreground in a way we haven’t seen since this government came to power.”

Glossary:

Disrupt: To hold up, disturb or throw into disorder

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