PATCO Labor Rally, Washington, D.C., 1981

Photo courtesy John D. Hoffman / PATCO Documentary Web Site

Labor strikes can cause major disruptions to industry, commerce and the lives of many people who aren't even connected to the strike itself. The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Association strike in 1981 resulted in the firing of thousands of air traffic controllers, and the New York City transit strike in late 2005 affected millions of people. The history of strikes and labor unions is a key chapter in the story of the Industrial Revolution.

While the reasons behind strikes can be complex, they all boil down to two key elements: money and power. In this article, we'll find out how labor strikes have affected the balance of power between corporations and workers, what laws regulate strikes and learn about some important strikes in history.