How many US workers went on major strikes in 2023? Labor stoppages set a record

Workers in the United States set a record in 2023 for major strikes, according to data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The bureau reported that a total of 458,900 U.S. workers went on 33 major work stoppages last year.

That was an increase of 280% from 2022, when 120,600 workers were involved in 23 stoppages in total, according to the Economic Policy Institute, and was a return to pre-pandemic levels.

According to the bureau, a major work stoppage involves 1,000 or more workers and lasts at least one shift during the work week between Monday and Friday. The bureau doesn’t distinguish between strikes and lockouts, which are initiated by management.

2023 also saw the largest number of major work stoppages since 2000, when 39 were reported, according to the bureau.

Last year, the private sector saw a total of 367,800 workers involved in 25 stoppages.

There were three local government and five state government work stoppages involving a total of 91,100 workers.

Why did workers strike in US?

The Economic Policy Institute found workers went on strike in efforts to improve wages, benefits and working conditions.

Motivations last year included “decades of stagnant real (inflation-adjusted) wages, erosion of health insurance or retirement benefits, long work hours, and dangerous or stressful working conditions,” the institute said.

Members of the Writers Guild of America East are joined by SAG-AFTRA members and actors as they both hold up signs picketing in Times Square on July 14, 2023, in New York. SAG-AFTRA representing 160,000 television and movie actors joined screenwriters who were picketing due to a range of issues including pay and the use of artificial intelligence. JOHN ANGELILLO/UPI

What were some of the major work stoppages in 2023?

In 2023, more than 12,000 members of United Auto Workers went on strike for two months to reach an agreement with General Motors, Ford and Stellantis that included changes such as raises for a third of workers.

More than 75,000 health care workers with Kaiser Permanente went on the “largest recorded health care strike in U.S. history,” the Economic Policy Institute said, leading to pay raises and new hiring initiatives.

The four largest strikes of the year, accounting for 350,100 of the 539,000 workers, were the Screen Actors Guild–American Federation of Television and Radio Artists strike, the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions strike, the Los Angeles Unified School District strike, and the UAW Stand-Up Strike.

That’s according to the Labor Action Tracker, created by Cornell University and the University of Illinois, documented 470 work stoppages in 2023 — including 466 strikes and four lockouts.

That 2023 report found the number of workers involved in stoppages increased 141% to 539,000, up from 224,000 the previous year.

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