Quitting Work but Not the Job: Liverty and the Right to Strike
44 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2014
Date Written: 2014
During the plebeian secessions in Rome, the plebs retreated from the city but they did not leave it. According to Livy’s account of the first secession, they gathered at the Sacred Mount (Mons Sacer), created a new religion of the plebs, and swore an oath not to fight the patricians’ war until their demands were met (Livius 1905, 8.28). After Menenius Agrippa’s failed arbitration, which included his famous appeal to the organic integrity of the body politic, the plebs won a newfound presence in the political community: the tribunes. They stood not just as parts but as members, as the members they already claimed themselves to be. They had become citizens and had inscribed their status on the public consciousness of Rome through the office of the tribunes. Many of the most characteristic institutions of the Roman republic followed the same course. Plebeian secessions gave birth to the Twelve Tables, the formal legislative supremacy of the plebs and the abolition of the debt-bondage (Lintott 1999, 38-40, 199-213; Millar 2002, 27-36; Raaflaub 2005, 185-222). Livy called the post-secession dictatorial decree that abolished debt-bondage, the Lex Poetelia (326 BC), “the dawn, as it were, of a new era of liberty for the plebs” (Livius 1905, 8.28).
Keywords: labor, liberty, strike, freedom, labor rights
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