State of the Facts
The United Auto Workers (UAW) in the University of California sent 48,000 workers to the picket lines in November 2022. Post-docs, graduate researchers, and academic student employees across University of California colleges stopped working to advocate for higher wages to keep up with the increasing cost of living in California.
This was one of the largest strikes in recent history. The last work stoppage that involved this scale of employees was the teacher strikes during the Red for Ed movement in North Carolina in 2019. And while there has been a recent uptick in teacher strikes, the number of overall strikes in the US has declined
There have been an average 16 large-scale work stoppages annually over the past decade. In the 1970s, the annual average was 289.
The decline in work stoppages comes as the number and proportion of union workers has fallen since the 1980s. In 1983, there were 17.7 million such workers, about 20% of employees. There were 14.3 million such workers in 2022, representing 10% of employees.
The number of workers involved in work stoppages has fallen in recent years as well. In 2022, a total of 120,600 employees were in work stoppages. That’s down 85% from 795,000 in 1980, and down 95% from the nearly 2.5 million employees in stoppages in 1970.
Many of the recent large work stoppages have involved public workers, especially teachers. The largest such strike occurred in May 2018, when 123,000 educators in North Carolina walked off the job for a day. The largest private company work stoppage in the past decade occurred in the fall of 2019, when 46,000 union workers at General Motors went on strike.
This data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics work stoppage database. The agency notes that the data is “gathered from public news sources, such as newspapers and the Internet.” The data does not distinguish between strikes, which are usually initiated by workers, and lock-outs, which are typically initiated by management.
Read more about the state of the US economy, teacher strikes, get data directly in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter.
Keep up with the latest data and most popular content.