April 20, 2024

US Workers Strikes Reach a Record High Since 2000

  • UAW strikes are just the latest in a wider trend of increased labor action across the US.
  • Over 4.1 million working days were lost to strikes in August, the highest in almost 25 years.
  • Public approval of labor unions is also up, reaching its highest point since 1965 in recent years. 

US workers are turning to strike action to settle labor disputes at the highest rates in almost 25 years. This August 4.1 million workdays were lost to strikes and lockouts, according to analysis of Labor Department data by The Wall Street Journal.

Compared to August, the monthly total of days lost to strikes since 2000 has not even come close to half the level of this summer, never rising over 2 million.

The Hollywood writers and actors strike has fuelled the peak in lost workdays, but major strike action has also been ongoing across the transportation sector, the service industry, and in education.

The increased action comes as the rising cost of living has exacerbated the pressure of decades of stagnant wages. Frustrated as their companies make record profits and CEO and exec salaries rise, unions have been seeking higher pay and improved benefits and working conditions.

Labor action has had some success over the summer. UPS workers secured a five-year contract giving 340,000 employees a $2.75 hourly pay increase and heat safety protections, per NBC News.

But in Hollywood, strikes are ongoing as writers fight against changes to the industry created by the streaming revolution and seek greater protections against the encroachment of AI on their jobs.

hollywood writers strike

The Hollywood writers strike is still ongoing.

Ashley Landis/AP

The trend of greater union action is set to continue as United Auto Workers grabbed headlines after announcing major strike action on Friday against the Detroit 3 automakers, General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis.

The UAW, which represents about 150,000 autoworkers, called for targeted labor stoppages after failing to reach a new four-year labor agreement with the automakers. Unions are seeking significant pay increases, cost of living adjustments, a shorter work week, and the return of pensions.

Experts anticipate the historic labor stoppage could cost the automakers as much as $5 billion within just 10 days, but the strike is expected to last longer than that.

Though increased strikes across the US bring disruption and delays to services, public support for unions is also higher than in recent decades. In August, 67% of Americans said they approved of labor unions in a Gallup poll, up from 54% in 2013.

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