Contract negotiations are nothing new for athletes, but when the U.S. women's hockey team decided to take their competitiveness off the rink and into the boardroom, things got rough fast. After speaking out about how poorly paid they were, the USA women's hockey team went on strike, and they have now won the contracts they wanted. In doing so, they set a standard for female athletes and organizers looking for inspiration for their own future strikes.
Prior to the strike, USA Hockey only paid their women's team $1,000 a month for the six months of Olympic season, and according to team captain Meghan Duggan, paid them "virtually nothing" for the other three-and-a-half-years of the full four-year Olympic cycle. So instead of taking the low pay and dealing with other grievances, Duggan and her fellow starters announced that they'd boycott their upcoming championship game if their demands weren't met. With news that they reached an agreement with USA Hockey to avoid the boycott, it appears that the gambit paid off.
Executive Director Dave Ogrean said, “I think players are pleased because great progress was made. Thanks to them, where we go from here, and what they have done for the next generation of players, is real progress for the sport.”
Duggan called their win a "historic moment in women's sports," and she's correct — their successful strike will go down not just as a win for women's sports or women in general, but as a symbolic win for the labor movement after being invigorated by the Day Without an Immigrant and Women's Strike this year.
In the lead-up to March 8's Women's Strike, criticisms about the strike and its participants abounded. Questions of privilege and what striking in 2017 could even accomplish dogged the highly publicized protest on International Women's Day, and despite a fairly sizable turnout, we're no closer to quantifying what, if anything, the strike accomplished in the weeks since it passed. Concerns that women don't make up the cohesive labor bloc they did during the last major U.S. women's strike in the 1970s was enough to cause some to criticize the strike before it began.
Despite the rhetoric surrounding the women's strike, this smaller but more obviously successful strike hearkens back to a history of women's strikes and the labor movement's well-worn tactic of consistently striking until demands were met. Strikes continue to be a tactic undertaken by unions and labor groups around the world. As recently as March 28, protesters in French Guiana went on a general strike.
While it's important to distinguish between smaller-scale, targeted strikes like the U.S. women's hockey team's and "general" or large-scale strikes like the March 8 Women's Strike, seeing a very public group of women successfully protest mistreatment using this historical union tactic seems to bode well for the future of the labor movement.