A strike has been defined as “the act of a body of workmen employed by the same master, in stopping work together at  a prearranged time, and refusing to continue until higher wages, or shorter time, or some other concession is granted them by the employer.” (Black’s Law Dictionary)

This definition, which agrees in essence with various other definitions on the subject, can serve our purpose to establish what is to be understood by the strike as it is commonly known among us, in the sphere of labor and industry.

It is necessary to make a distinction at the outset between a strike and simply quitting work. While a

strike is a refusal to work until certain demands are met by the employer, the strikers have no intention of giving up their jobs or of losing their positions to others. To carry their point they must of necessity prevent anyone else from filling their places, else the strike would simply amount to an exchange of employees. Besides that, the workmen band together, either through personal choice or under the domination of some labor organization, to cease working simultaneously at a prearranged time, usually at the busiest and most inopportune time for the employer. The strike is either so arranged that the employer is overawed and intimidated by the mere force of numbers, or otherwise it is so well timed that his business is hampered and possibly so seriously crippled that he is forced to comply with their demands or face his own economic ruin. The purpose of the strike is none other than to extort by compulsion some concession from the employer that can be obtained in no other way. (See Cogley, “Law of Strikes and Labor Organization”)

If we are ready to agree that the laboring man has certain rights which the employer is duty-bound to respect. Before he ever accepts a certain position, he has a right to demand just wages and proper working conditions. Any contract that he is asked to sign must be a free, voluntary and unbiased agreement between him and his employer, which both are bound to respect. If any unfavorable or unjust conditions arise, the way of mediation and arbitration is open to him, as well as; the way of appeal for government intervention if the case demands it. At the same time, every man is at liberty to quit his job and seek employment elsewhere, if necessity demands as long as; this does not conflict with his contract.

On the other hand, the employer also has certain rights which must be duly respected by the workman.

He has the right of personal property. His factory or shop, with the machinery in it, is his personal property, which he can use as he desires, without anyone preventing him. It is the inalienable right of every man to freely use and enjoy his own property, as; long as he stays within his rights, and no one can interfere with him. Imagine a guest in your home who would prevent you from sitting in your own chairs, sleeping on your own beds and eating from your own table, or even would stand outside of your house in order to prevent you from using and enjoying your home as you see fit.

The employer also has the right to manage and control his own business without any outside interference. He has the right, not his employees, to say whether he wants his machinery to run and production to continue. He even has the right to choose his workmen, determine their number and their position, as well as the wages he intends to pay them, without being subjected to any form of compulsion by his servants. After all, a man is sovereign in his own domain, and each of us is obligated to respect that God-given right. Not to do so is conspiracy and rebellion. In any other sphere of life, an uprising like a strike would be considered nothing short of conspiracy, an act of open rebellion against the authorities, a simple act of extortion. And the concessions gained by such means would be considered ill-gotten gains. Any other contract, so obtained, would be considered illegal by any court of justice. But the law has learned to wink at the evil of strikes, which does not yet mean that they are justified by the Word, and in the sight of God.

Someone may object that there are also other rights and duties to be considered. The Christian laboring man has an obligation to support his; family, give his children a Christian education, contribute to the Church and other institutions of charity. He even has a duty to militate against the injustices that he meets in the world round about him, which he cannot shake off by asking: Am I my brother’s keeper? He owes it to his employer to demand of him to correct any evidence of injustice that may arise in the plant or factory. He must not become a partner in evil by silently ignoring it.

These things may be ever so true, but they do not excuse him for trespassing upon the rights; of another. Nor can he fight evil with evil. He may fight with all the power he can muster, as long as he stays within w’s own domain and resists the evil with the good. The first requisite of a just cause is that it maintains justice.

The main objection that must be raised against a Christian participating in strikes, is, that a strike is conspiracy in open rebellion against the God-given authority of the employer, which is a sin against the fifth commandment.

There are also other objections that may be raised. We can raise the objection that a strike, taken 0niy by itself, is already an act of violence. Even if no weapons are in evidence, or no other violent acts are committed, the mere fact that the workmen assuming authority in the plant, preventing the employer the free use of his property, hindering him from running his business as he sees fit and threatening to cripple or ruin his business, is already an act of violence. A. toy-gun hold-up is still a hold-up. If the Christian laborer is looking for justice, he must not seek it with the sword. He who takes up the sword shall perish by it.

Which does not mean that a Christian must take an attitude of passive resistance simply bearing the brunt of social injustice without doing anything about it. I have never been an advocate of non-resistance, nor ever maintained “that the Christian must be satisfied with whatever position he is placed in, because it is the will of God”, as B. V. charges in the Jan. 1st issue of the Standard Bearer. The way of arbitration is always open to every workman. If he loves justice he will fight a long and persistent battle against the evil he meets, and will do it without faltering. Besides that, there is also the way of appeal for government intervention. The government also has an obligation to protect the rights of its citizens. And there is still the third possibility of quitting his job, if he can do so without breaking his contract. If arbitration and appeal for government intervention both fail, the workman can still give up his job and seek employment elsewhere. But if nothing at all avails him, he still cannot resort to violence.

Nor can we entirely ignore the objection that the strike is unavoidably accompanied by other acts of violence. Strikers soon learn that their efforts were futile unless they could prevent others from filling the places they had voluntarily surrendered. The result is picketing, boycotting and sit-down strikes. Even peaceful picketing, although frequently condoned, is but another means of intimidating the employer or preventing him from making free use of his personal rights. Boycotting seeks to ostracize him from the business world and from society, and thus cut off his means of existence or ruin his business, unless he complies with the demands that are laid upon him. Any Christian taking part in such action may gain his end and profit materially from his efforts, but spiritually he can but expect leanness of soul, lacking the peace of mind that accompanies God’s approval on our actions.

But the main objection is that a strike is conspiracy against those whom God has placed in authority over us. The Christian owes obedience to God first of all and subjection to those in authority for God’s sake. Any violent opposition to the “powers that be” is rebellion against God, motivated by sin, instead of arising from the principle of love to God. Our love to God demands love to the neighbor, even when he is our enemy according to the flesh.

With these things in mind, it remains a problem to me why the Christian Labor Association should have a strike clause in their constitution, condoning strikes as a last resort. They want to maintain their Christian principles, object to violence, and yet prefer to speak of a “peaceful strike, entirely within the law” A thing may be “within the law”, and yet not be in harmony with God’s Law. Or is it no act of violence for a group of experienced workmen to bring their employer in serious difficulty by simultaneously laying down their tools at a prearranged time? Is a strike, from the very nature of the case, not an imposition upon the personal rights of the employer? Can it be justified that certain concessions are extorted from the employer by placing him in a precarious situation from which there is no escape? Or are they ready to excuse this evil because it comes as a last resort?

What is still more strange, is the fact that they consider the whole strike clause a dead issue, because it is very unlikely that they will ever use it anyway. But why maintain such an objectionable, and at the same time dangerous, clause in their rules of action? Why not remove it, and maintain a simple, positive stand against every act of violence in the sphere of labor and industry? Can anyone tell us why this clause remains standing where it is, if they have no intention of making use of it? Must this clause probably also serve as a toy-gun?

The matter is not so unimportant as some would have us think. In the last analysis, a Christian will strike or he will not strike, but in either case he must know what he is doing. A Christian labor organization will either defend the strike and allow, or force its members to participate in it, or it will condemn it and agitate against it with all its might. And such a Christian labor organization will either stand or fall on its Christian principles. If it is to exist, apart from and opposed to every form of worldly union, it must maintain its distinctive, Christian character throughout. That is its only right of existence. Let it be consistent in every detail.