By Don McIntosh
The strike wave that began in 2018 continued in 2019, according to the annual work stoppages report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), released Feb. 11.
BLS has tracked “large” work stoppages involving over 1,000 workers since 1947. Judging by the agency’s figures, strikes were a basic feature of collective bargaining from the 1950s to the 1970s, with hundreds of large strikes a year, but strikes fell off dramatically in the 1980s, becoming nearly extinct by 2009, when there were just five strikes nationwide of over 1,000 workers, and 2017, when there were seven.
Then in 2018, the agency reported 20 large strikes involving an estimated 485,000 American workers, the most in 33 years. The strike wave continued in 2019, with 25 major work stoppages involving 425,000 workers.
The strike wave started with West Virginia teachers in February 2018, and teachers unions led the way again in 2019, with 13 large strikes involving 270,000 teachers in North Carolina, West Virginia (again), Los Angeles, Chicago, Oregon, South Carolina, Kentucky, Denver, Oakland, Sacramento, and Kennewick, Washington. The year’s largest strike involved 92,700 teachers in North Carolina. The largest private sector strike was by United Auto Workers at General Motors, with 46,000 workers out for 29 days.
One large strike that continued in 2019 and is still under way: 1,800 members of IBEW Local 3 walked off the job March 28, 2017 at Charter Communications in New York and New Jersey and have been on strike for 1,050 days since then.
THE TEN BIGGEST STRIKES OF 2019
- 92,700 North Carolina Association of Educators vs. NC Legislature 1 day
- 46,000 United Auto Workers vs. General Motors 29 days
- 36,400 West Virginia Education Association vs. W.V. Legislature 2 days
- 33,000 United Teachers Los Angeles vs. LA Unified School District 6 days
- 32,000 Chicago Teachers Union vs. Chicago Public Schools 11 days
- 31,000 UFCW vs. Stop & Shop Supermarket in Mass., Conn. and R.I. 7 days
- 25,000 AFSCME Local 3299 vs. University of California 3 days
- 20,400 Oregon Education Association vs. Oregon Legislature 1 day
- 20,000 CWA vs. AT&T in nine southern states 2 days
- 18,900 South Carolina Association of Educators vs. SC Legislature 1 day