US Labor Strikes Increased Almost 50% Between 2021 and 2022

    US Labor Strikes Increased Almost 50% Between 2021 and 2022
    Last updated Feb 24, 2023
    Image credit: Getty Images/Contributor [via Entrepreneur]


    • According to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on Wednesday, nearly 50% more US workers were involved in strikes in 2022 than in the previous year — 120.6K up from 80.7K in 2021.[1]
    • 2022 saw 26 individual work stoppages, a rise from 17 in 2021 and 10 held in 2020. A rise in the number of striking workers comes amid the tightest labor market since 1969, with last year recording a four-fold increase in the 27K people who stopped working during the lockdown of 2020.[2]
    • Most strikes came from the education and healthcare sectors, with the US Dept. of Labor saying in a statement that they accounted for 106.3K people. Some of the largest stoppages took place at the University of California, such as in November when 48K workers went on strike.[2]
    • It has been suggested that the Bureau's data might not show an accurate picture of the scale of stoppages in the US, as it has not recorded strikes involving fewer than a thousand workers since the 1980s due to budget cuts. A Cornell University study puts the number of strikes seen last year at 424 — 52% higher than the 279 the year before.[3]
    • The news appears to be the latest indicator of a changing employment landscape. Following the COVID pandemic, there have been increasing moves toward unionization, especially in the service sector. Employees aligned with the "Fight for $15" campaign — an initiative to raise the minimum wage — along with Starbucks baristas organized over 100 strikes last year.[4]
    • Cornell's database cited higher pay, improved healthcare provisions, health and safety problems, and staffing as major demands among those striking.[5]


    Narrative A

    Approval ratings of labor unions are at their highest among Americans for almost six decades. As stoppages become more common — and it becomes clearer that engaging in collective activity gains workers more leverage to improve their conditions and pay — labor organization will only spread and power will become more equitably distributed between employers and employees.

    Narrative B

    While there has been a rise in stoppages following the pandemic, the levels seen today are nowhere near the scale of the 1960s and '70s. The strikes may also be short-lived, as SCOTUS appears poised to open the door for businesses to sue workers over any strike that causes economic damage to the employer in Glacier Northwest v. Teamsters. The significance of this trend should not be overstated just yet.

    Nerd narrative

    There is a 50% chance that at least 12% of American workers will be represented by a labor union in 2030, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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