Labour History Review

Local Strikes as Transnational Events: Migration, Donations, and Organizational Cooperation in the Context of Strikes in Switzerland (1860–1914)

Labour History Review (2009), 74, (3), 305–318.


The second half of the 'long nineteenth century' witnessed a dramatic increase of strikes all over Europe, which was not confined within national boundaries. Historical strike research has mainly analyzed strike-related transnationalism by doing comparative studies and examining international strike waves. This article offers a second approach towards a transnational history of striking: the analysis of strike-related transnational entanglements. By the example of strikes in Switzerland, it focuses on three aspects and asks about their geographical dimensions, their impact on the outcome of local strikes as well as the impact of these strikes on the further transnationalization of industrial relations: strike-induced migration; the transnational collection of donations for strikers; and border-crossing organizational cooperation both of trade unions and employers. The catchment area of these transnational entanglements covered large parts of Europe. Whilst transnational donations, being important both financially and symbolically, experienced their heyday between the 1860s and the 1890s, several forms of migration, including the border-crossing recruitment of strike-breakers and the deportation of foreign strikers, took place over the whole period considered and were in some cases crucial for the outcome of strikes. These forms of migration were especially important in causing the establishment of transnational mechanisms of cooperation between both trade unions and employers organizations between the 1890s and 1914. On balance, the Swiss case uncovers a potentially very productive field of analysis for renewed historical strike research, which fits perfectly well into a transnational labour history inspired by the philosophy of 'histoire croisée'.

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Author details

Koller, Christian