U.S. strikes rare but increasing in 2021


The year 2021 had twice the number of large work stoppages as 2020, with nearly three times the number of workers participating. But there were still far fewer large strikes than in the teachers-union-led strike surge of 2018 and 2019.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported there were 16 major work stoppages throughout 2021, counting actions where at least 1,000 workers stayed off the job for at least one weekday. The number includes strikes and employer lockouts.

Compared with the all-time low of 5 strikes in 2009, last year was an active one for labor (although a far cry from the record high of 470 in 1952). In 2020, just eight major work stoppages took place. More than 80,000 workers participated in major strikes last year, up from about 27,000 in 2020.

The year’s biggest strike involved more than 40,000 health workers in California, supporting union engineers at Kaiser Permanente. There was just one major public-sector strike, a Cook County, Ill. work stoppage by SEIU Local 73-represented workers.

The recent high for major strikes came in 2018 for the number of involved workers (485,200) and 2019 for the number of strikes (25).

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