Today in labor history: “Scab” used for the first time

On this day in 1816 the term “scab” was coined by the Albany Typographical Union in reference to strike breaking. The National Labor Relations Act attempted to make strike breaking illegal. However a Supreme Court decision in 1938 created an opening for replacing workers at the end of a strike and bringing in “permanent replacements” if the union loses majority support.

In British labor history the term scab has its origins in the Elizabethan era.

The use of scabs and lockouts are widely used company tactics in class struggle in the U.S. today. 

Photo: ILGWU workers strike against Elena-Fay Dress shop. The Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives in the ILR School at Cornell University is the Catherwood Library.