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Major Strikes Rose by 43 Percent Last Year

Man holding a megaphone while speaking to strikers holding signs

Nearly half a million workers were on strike at some point in 2023, with the number of major strikes jumping 43 percent to 33, according to data released by the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on Feb. 21. We’ve gathered articles on the news from SHRM Online and other media outlets.

Hundreds of Thousands Went on Strike

There were 458,980 workers involved in major work stoppages at some point in 2023, according to a BLS report, and 16.7 million days of work lost when the numbers of strikers and length of the strikes are taken into account. The 33 major strikes were the most in more than 20 years. The biggest strike was by the Screen Actors Guild—American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which represents 160,000 actors and lasted about four months.

(BLS and CNN)

Double the Average Number of Recent Strikes

The number of major work stoppages was double the average over the past 20 years and the highest since 2000, when there were 39. The BLS defines major work stoppages as those that involve 1,000 or more workers and last at least one shift during the workweek Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays.

Also on Feb. 21, the United Auto Workers (UAW) announced it is committing $40 million through 2026 to unionize more autoworkers and battery workers.

(FOX Business)

Other Key Organizing Targets

The Teamsters union is trying to organize nonunion logistics companies and Amazon, while the UAW is attempting to unionize foreign car manufacturers with factories in the U.S., said Martin Malin, founding director of Chicago-Kent College of Law’s Martin H. Malin Institute for Law and the Workplace in Chicago. In addition, the UAW is seeking to organize Tesla.

(SHRM Online and The New York Times)

Cornell Provided Higher Estimate of Striking Workers

Nearly 540,000 workers went on strike last year, according to a study released by Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) Feb. 15. Four large strikes accounted for more than half of the workers involved in work stoppages last year, the report said, pointing to work stoppages among actors, autoworkers and health care employees, as well as an action by school staff in Los Angeles.

“Despite considerable increases in the number of work stoppages and workers involved in stoppages since 2021, the level of strike activity still does not approach rates in the 1970s and earlier, according to more comprehensive BLS data available at that time,” the study stated.

(ABC News and Cornell ILR study)

Dip in Union Membership Rates

Union membership rates dipped slightly last year, despite the high-profile strikes and increased union drives. Ten percent of American workers were members in 2023, compared to 10.1 percent in 2022, according to the BLS in a report issued in January. That number is down from 20.1 percent in 1983. There are 14.4 million union members in the U.S. The union membership rate of public-sector workers (32.5 percent) continued to be more than five times that of private-sector workers (6 percent), the BLS reported. “Union membership is at best stagnant,” said Michael Lotito, an attorney with Littler in San Francisco. 

(SHRM Online)


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