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2001 Major Work Stoppages
Originally Posted: January 30, 2003
All measures of work stoppage activity were low in 2001, but idleness was at an historic low; the average duration of stoppages was 22 days, with 45 percent lasting 21 days or longer.
Measures of work stoppage idleness-the number of days idle and percent of estimated working time lost because of strikes and lockouts-reached historic lows in 2001.1 Other measures of work stoppage activity-the number of stoppages and the number of workers involved-also were low by historical standards. Twenty-nine major work stoppages began during 2001, idling 99,000 workers and resulting in 1.2 million workdays of idleness (less than 1 out of every 10,000 available workdays). Major work stoppages are those involving 1,000 or more workers and lasting a full shift or longer; they include worker-initiated strikes, as well as lockouts by employers.2 In 2000, 39 major work stoppages began, which idled 394,000 workers and resulted in 20.4 million days of idleness.3 (See table 1.) (See chart 1, chart 2, chart 3.)
Sectors and industries affected
Of the 29 major work stoppages beginning in 2001, 24 were in the private sector; the remainder occurred in State and local government. (See table 2.) Within the private sector, 13 stoppages occurred in the goods-producing industries, including 8 in construction, and 11 occurred in the service-producing industries, including 6 in the health care service industry. The following private sector industries experienced the most days of idleness during the year due to work stoppages:
- Air transportation (116,600 days)
- Construction (115,000 days)
- Health care services (109,700 days)
- Utilities (102,000 days)
In the public sector, 4 of the 5 stoppages were in education. Although the public sector incurred slightly more than one-sixth of all stoppages during the year, it accounted for a disproportional share of workers idled and days of idleness.
Disputes idling large numbers of workers
Table 3 provides data on work stoppages involving 5,000 or more workers for the period 1990-2001. (See table 3.) Among the work stoppages that began in 2001, three in the public sector accounted for more than two-fifths (44,200) of all workers idled. The first was between the State of Minnesota and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE), which jointly represented 29,900 State government employees who went on strike for 14 days. The other two stoppages included a 19-day strike at the Hawaii Department of Education by 12,400 workers represented by the National Education Association (NEA), and a 1-day stoppage at Seattle public schools involving 6,900 workers who also were represented by the NEA. (See table 4.)
Disputes involving significant idleness
More than half (53 percent) of the year's work stoppage days of idleness (608,300 days) stemmed from four major disputes, including two of those previously mentioned-the dispute between the State of Minnesota and the AFSCME and MAPE (242,500 days) and the dispute between the Hawaii Department of Education and the NEA (161,200 days). The other two were between Comair and the Airlines Pilots Association (116,600 days), and between the Midwest Generation Company and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (88,000 days).
Duration of work stoppages
The average length of work stoppages beginning in 2001 was 22 days, and a majority of the work stoppages (86 percent) lasted 30 days or less. Only 10 percent of stoppages extended more than 50 days. (See chart 4.) Work stoppages were concentrated in the 11- to 20-day and 21- to 30-day ranges. The longest stoppage beginning in 2001 was the dispute between Midwest Generation and the Electrical Workers in which 1,100 workers were on strike for 111 days; this dispute also was the longest stoppage in effect in 2001.
Profiles of significant disputes
Three disputes had a significant impact on work stoppage activity in 2001. A profile of each of these dispute follows, with information about the parties' bargaining goals and contract offers, major issues in dispute, bargaining sessions, and use of outside assistance in resolving the disputes.
The State of Minnesota, AFSCME, and MAPE. Although their contracts expired on June 30, 2001, serious contract talks between the State of Minnesota and its two largest unions were delayed until July 2 due to a potential budget deadlock in a drawn-out legislative session, which would have led to a partial shutdown of State services and substantial employee layoffs. The AFSCME agreement covered about 19,000 clerical and blue-collar workers, including maintenance and food service workers, corrections guards, automobile mechanics, carpenters, health care examiners, and medical laboratory technicians. The MAPE agreement covered about 10,000 professional employees, including computer technicians, parole and probation officers, hospital therapists, food inspectors, financial officers, and information technologists.
By July 2, when State negotiators made their first wage offer, AFSCME had already proposed a 2-year contract with 10-percent annual wage increases, lower health insurance premiums, protection against contracting out of bargaining unit jobs, and improved retirement benefits. MAPE also sought a 2-year contract, but with a 6-percent wage increase in the first year and a 4-percent increase in the second year. After several weeks of unproductive contract talks under the auspices of a State mediator, AFSCME gave the State negotiators a 1-day deadline "to bring a serious proposal" to the table.4 With only limited progress being made by the deadline on July 20, the State mediator recessed contract talks until July 30.
After three days of intense negotiations, the union announced that it had reached an impasse in negotiations with the State. The major issues in dispute were wages and benefits, particularly health insurance. Less than three weeks later, AFSCME negotiators submitted the State's final offer to its Negotiations Assembly, which decided to authorize a strike vote by the rank and file. On September 1, the union announced that they had voted to strike on September 17 unless an agreement was reached before then.
The State's final proposal included a 2.5-percent annual wage increase and changes in health insurance provisions that would have shifted more of the costs to employees through higher deductibles, maximum out-of-pocket costs, and co-payments. The union had amended its wage demands and now sought an annual wage increase of 6.5 percent, plus several enhancements in benefits.
Meanwhile, the MAPE negotiations, with contract issues similar to AFSCME's, had also yielded little progress. After 31 bargaining sessions, union negotiators rejected the State's final offer on July 27, and then, as required, submitted the proposal to its members for a vote. Like the AFSCME members, the MAPE rank and file voted to strike on September 17 unless a settlement was reached prior to that date.
According to MAPE, the State's final proposal included annual wage increases of 2 percent and substantive changes in health insurance that would increase the cost to their members by an amount greater than the proposed wage increases.5 According to a MAPE press report, the union was now seeking a wage increase of 6.5 percent in the first year of the contract and 4 percent in the second year.
Despite the stalled negotiations, a spokesperson for the Governor of Minnesota was optimistic that settlements could be reached without a strike: "There hasn't been a strike for 20 years, and I don't expect there to be one this year." One union leader, however, said that "Until [State negotiators] take the threat of a strike seriously, we don't see them making any move to come talk to us."6
On August 20, the parties conducted mediated negotiations; but at the end of the day, they were still far apart on wages and benefits. The conflict escalated that day when the Governor ordered the National Guard to begin training to provide basic patient care at the State-run regional treatment centers, community-based residences, and veterans' homes. On September 4, both unions officially notified the State that they intended to strike on September 17.
The parties were scheduled to resume mediated negotiations on September 13, but due to the terrorist attacks of September 11, they postponed negotiations until September 27-29, and the unions pushed their strike deadline to October 1. As a result of the September 11 attacks, the parties found themselves bargaining in a different economic climate: The State expected revenue shortfalls for the first time in a decade, and State officials said the weak economy made it impossible to give in to the unions' demands.7
At this time, AFSCME's last wage proposal was for annual wage increases of 6.5 percent, and MAPE's latest wage proposal was for wage increases of 6.3 percent in the first year of the contract, and 4.2 percent in the second year. By September 30, the State offered AFSCME 3-percent annual wage increases, plus a $200 lump-sum payment; the State offered MAPE a one-time 4-percent increase. AFSCME had countered with demands for annual wage increases of 5 percent, while MAPE demanded 4.5-percent annual wage increases. The parties were also far apart on benefit issues.8 According to the State, the final offer to AFSCME costed out at $1.6 billion, with $92 million in new money; the final offer to MAPE costed out at $1.3 billion, with $71 million in new money.9
On October 1, both unions put up picket lines and their members walked off their jobs, the first strike since 1981, when 14,000 AFSCME-represented workers struck for 22 days. The strike was the first ever for MAPE. The strike was the largest public sector dispute in Minnesota history, affecting highway maintenance, corrections, health care services, and other essential services.
Although the issue of wages was important, the main sticking point leading to the strike was the State's health insurance proposals, which the unions said would negate any proposed wage increases. State negotiators said that their proposal would actually lower insurance premiums for employees, limit annual out-of-pocket expenses to $1,600 for single coverage and $3,200 for family coverage, and not require employee co-payments for both preventative services and services not requiring a physician.10
On October 14, after 3 days of intensive negotiations with State mediators shuttling back and forth between negotiators, the parties reached agreement on 2-year contracts. AFSCME members received annual wage increases of 3.5 percent, and MAPE members received increases of 3 percent plus a lump-sum payment of $250 to offset employees' increased health insurance costs. In addition, both unions received new health insurance programs, which included substantial improvements over the State's initial proposals.11
Midwest Generation and Electrical Workers Local 15. Midwest Generation, a Chicago-based utility owned by Edison International, was formed in December 1999, when the company bought 12 power plants from ComEdison. As part of the purchase, Midwest Generation was obligated to assume Local 15's collective bargaining agreement. After the purchase, Midwest voluntarily offered to raise wages by 3.5 percent in exchange for extending the contract 9 months, to December 31, 2001. The union rejected the proposal because the company did not want to renegotiate the agreement in its entirety.12
In April 2001, the union filed unfair labor practice complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), alleging that Midwest was not bargaining in good faith. The company filed a countercharge, asserting that under the Illinois Electric Service Customer Choice and Rate Relief Act of 1997, the State's electric utility deregulation law, it was not legally required to bargain with the union for 30 months after the purchase-that is, no earlier than June 2002.13 The union claimed that Midwest had inherited the contract, which expired March 31, 2001, and that the Illinois electric utility deregulation law was superceded by the National Labor Relations Act, the Federal law that regulates collective bargaining in the industry.
On April 10, the NLRB issued an unfair labor practice complaint against Midwest, and dismissed the company's countercharge. Spurred by the decision, Midwest agreed to start contract talks with Local 15 on June 13. The company was not optimistic about the outcome, however, given the economic forces operating in the industry at the time. After intermittent negotiations, contract talks broke down on June 27. One day later, the 1,150 members of Local 15 walked off their jobs.
Midwest asserted that the dispute arose because the union wanted contract language that would adversely affect the company's ability to efficiently and effectively operate and maintain its power plants. The union claimed that it had not proposed any new contract language, but only wanted to continue the "policies and procedures in place" at the time of the purchase, arbitration awards that had been decided over the last 13 years, and progressive discipline procedures in the current contract.14
Four days into the strike, the union requested that contract talks be reconvened. Midwest, which had been operating its facilities with management and supervisory staff and replacement workers, initially refused to resume negotiations until picket line disruptions-such as strikers blocking entrances and deliveries to plants and disrupting traffic on roads going into plants-ended.15 Disturbed by these events, the company petitioned an Illinois county court for restraining orders for three of its plants, and was successful in getting a restraining order for one plant.
At the behest of a Federal mediator, the parties resumed bargaining on July 19, the first face-to-face negotiations since the strike began. Not unexpectedly, however, little progress was made in the talks, because the parties continued to disagree over work rules, especially the use of outside contractors. After breaking off briefly, contract negotiations resumed on July 26, when the company floated a new, streamlined proposal to settle the dispute. The new proposal apparently still contained language about subcontracting, though, which the union felt would cut bargaining unit jobs. The parties met again 5 days later to discuss the company's July 26 proposal. When they recessed on August 6, they had narrowed their differences in a number of areas, including subcontracting, travel compensation, and vacation scheduling.
Negotiations stalled again on August 22, however, when Midwest objected to the union's insistence on maintaining extensive language from the expired agreement. The company felt the union was "wedded to work practices that were intended for a utility as opposed to a competitive business."16 On August 31, union members, facing increasing financial hardships, voted to end the 9-week strike after their negotiating team recommended they return to work unconditionally while the union tried to hammer out a settlement with Midwest.
Several days later, the dispute escalated when Midwest rejected the offer and locked out the workers, saying they could return to work only after a new contract agreement had been reached.17 The union then filed unfair labor practice charges with the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago, citing its unconditional return-to-work offer and the company's subsequent lockout of the strikers. The company said it had rejected the return-to-work offer because the "risk of service interruption, damage to company assets, and safety incidents was too high."18
On September 21, Midwest submitted its "final offer" to the union, which, the company said, provided strikers with "competitive wage increases and a working environment [in] which the company and workers alike can grow and prosper."19 According to the company, the proposal included a 4½-year contract with wage increases of 4 percent upon ratification, 3.5 percent in January 2002, and 3 percent each January from 2003 to 2005. The proposal included an additional increase of $1 per hour for workers in the top wage classification. It also included the consolidation of certain job classifications, a reduction in the number of steps in the wage progression, limited use of subcontracting, and a new short-term disability plan.20
Midwest informed Local 15 that if it did not endorse the proposal by October 1 and submit the final offer to the rank and file, the company would not guarantee that its members would have jobs to return to. The union decided not to endorse Midwest's final offer before the deadline expired because it needed clarification about a number of points. Then, on October 6, the rank and file rejected the offer by a slim margin. At the behest of a Federal mediator, however, the union submitted the offer to its members a second time, and it was approved on October 16, ending the 3½-month strike. According to the union president, the workers were enduring financial hardship and thus had no choice but to accept the company's final offer.21 Another driving force in the turnaround in voting was a ruling by the NLRB Chicago regional office to submit the union's unfair labor practice charges to the NLRB national office in Washington, DC, for a future ruling, which would have lengthened the dispute, thus, adversely affecting the union's bargaining position.22
Hawaii State Teachers Association and Hawaii Department of Education. Unlike their mainland counterparts, primary and secondary school teachers in Hawaii's public school system work in a statewide education system in which elementary and secondary schools are organized in one school district. As a result, their union representatives bargain with the State's Department of Education, rather than with local school officials. In addition, funding for primary and secondary education comes from income and excise taxes instead of from local property taxes specifically allocated for education, which means that public education vies more directly with other public services for funding.
The nearly 13,000 primary and secondary teachers in Hawaii are represented by the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA). The current round of bargaining between the teachers and the Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE) began when the existing contract expired on June 30, 1999. In mid-November 2000, after months of unproductive contract talks, the teachers association declared an impasse to the negotiations, rejecting the State's latest offer as "woefully inadequate," doing "nothing to help fight low teacher morale, nor help keep or attract teachers to the profession."23
The declaration of an impasse triggered a mandatory, step-by-step process to reach a settlement. The parties engaged in 15 days of mediated negotiations, after which their dispute was submitted to a three-member fact-finding board that issued recommendations to resolve the dispute. After the Hawaii Department of Education rejected the board's report, the recommendations were made public and a 60-day "cooling-off period" began, during which time the union could not strike and the State could not lock out the union or change the terms and conditions of employment.
The dispute escalated on March 14, 2001, when the HSTA rank and file voted overwhelmingly to strike if a settlement was not reached soon. After 11th-hour bargaining sessions on April 4 were unsuccessful, the parties broke off negotiations, and the union struck on April 5. HSTA Executive Director Joan Husted succinctly capsulated the dispute, "Money is the critical issue, we've virtually agreed on all other issues, but we're just stuck on money." The union had dropped its demand to a 21-percent wage increase over 4 years, retroactive to July 1, 1999, and the State had offered a 14-percent increase over 2 years, without retroactivity.24
The strike virtually shut down the statewide public school system, sending 182,328 students on an unplanned vacation for nearly 3 weeks. After intermittent bargaining sessions, negotiators reached a tentative agreement on April 23, and the 50-member HSTA board approved it the same day. The settlement called for wage increases of 5 percent in September 2001, 2 percent in February 2002, 6 percent in September 2002, and 3 percent in February 2003. Other economic terms included two $550 retention bonuses, a 3-percent differential for teachers with master's or professional degrees, a 6-percent differential for teachers with doctorates, and a $5,000 differential for teachers with national certification.
In announcing the pact, the Governor of Hawaii praised the settlement, saying it would enhance the State's ability to attract teachers by making their salaries more competitive and would improve overall instructional quality by emphasizing teachers' professional development.: "This is a good and fair contract agreement. Our teachers will receive a significant pay raise that includes excellent incentives for additional pay increases based on professional development. Most importantly, our children will reap the benefits of having teachers who continue to refine their skills and talents throughout their careers." The Governor also said that the agreement was "fiscally responsible."25
Teachers overwhelmingly approved the tentative agreement and returned to work on April 25, with students returning the next day. Although the teachers returned to work, the contract was not fully implemented for more than a year because the parties disagreed over the terms of the 3-percent differential for teachers holding Masters or Professional degrees. The crux of the disagreement was whether or not the State agreed to pay the differential for 1 or 2 years.26
On both July 12 and 13, HSTA offered to implement terms of the entire agreement except for the second year of the 3-percent differential and to continue discussion on that issue; the State rejected both offers. The union then presented its members with three options: strike again, litigate the dispute, or renegotiate a new contract. The rank and file voted overwhelmingly for the second option, which resulted in HSTA filing a prohibited practice complaint with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board on August 14, asking the Board to rule that, because the teachers had a contract in place, the State was obligated to implement the agreement.27
On August 24, the State issued a countercomplaint, alleging that there was an oral agreement in place on April 23, 2001 for the 3-percent differential and that the ratification document did not accurately portray the terms of that oral settlement. Three weeks later, the union filed a motion for an interlocutory order to implement the undisputed provisions of the settlement; and the State agreed to implement those provisions in a prehearing meeting with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board on September 14.28
During prehearing meetings, the State rejected the Board's offer to arbitrate the dispute; and the Board ordered the parties to enter into mediation. On October 5, the parties began mediated negotiations, which failed to produce an agreement. The Board held hearings in October and November 2001, and released its decision on February 7, 2002. In its findings of fact, the Board ordered the parties to reduce their agreement to writing and to implement the agreement; it limited the 3-percent differential payment to 1 year; and it ordered the parties to bargain over the differential for the second year.29
1 One additional stoppage began before 2001 and continued into the year. The dispute kept another 2,700 workers off their jobs and contributed over 35,000 days of idleness in 2001.
2 A strike is defined as a temporary stoppage of work by a group of workers (not necessarily members of a union) to express a grievance or enforce a bargaining demand. A lockout is a temporary withholding or denial of employment by employers during a labor dispute to enforce terms of employment on a group of employees. Because of the complexity of disputes, the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not attempt to distinguish between strikes and lockouts in its statistics, and both are included in the work stoppages figures.
3 The large number of days of idleness in 2000 reflects a work stoppage involving 135,000 workers and lasting 183 days. The workers were represented by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Screen Actors Guild in their dispute with the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies.
4 "Talks drag on between public employee union and state," Associated Press Newswire, July 20, 2001, on the Internet at http://ptg.djnr.com/ccroot/asp/public/story_multi.asp?rndnum=846662 (visited March 19, 2002).
5 "White-Collar Union Employees Likely To Reject State's Offer," St. Paul Pioneer Press, August 1, 2001, p. B4.
6 "Ventura addresses contract impasse as workers mull strike," Associated Press Newswire, August 17, 2001, on the Internet at http://ptg.djnr.com/ccroot/asp/publib/story_multi.asp?rndnum=845562 (visited March 19, 2002).
7 "Strike threat: A settlement is a must," Star-Tribune, September 28, 2001, p. 20A.
8 "Minnesota state workers plan for Monday strike," Associated Press Newswires, September 30, 2001, on the Internet at http://ptg.djnr.com/ccroot/asp/publib/story_multi.asp?rndnum=915981 (visited March 19, 2002).
9 "Minnesota State Workers Continue Strike: Negotiators Say No New Talks Scheduled," Daily Labor Report, October 3, 2001, p. A10.
11 For more on the particulars of the contracts, see "State Employees End Strike With Tentative New Contract for 29,000," Daily Labor Report, October 16, 2001, pp. A3-4.
12 "Strike threat at Midwest Generation," Daily Southtown, May 18, 2001, on the Internet at http://dailysouthtown/southtown.com/dsbiz/181bd3.htm ( visited June 15, 2001).
13 "Midwest Generation Agrees to Bargain With IBEW for New Contract Covering 1,150," Daily Labor Report, June 13, 2001, p. A3.
14 "No New Talks Scheduled in IBEW Strike Against Chicago Electric Utility Company," Daily Labor Report, July 2, 2001, p. A2.
15 "Midwest Generation Strike Continues; Picket Line Turmoil," Dow Jones Newswires, July 6, 2001, on the Internet at http://ptg.djnr.com/ccroot/asp/publib/story_multi.asp?rndnum=21587 (visited February 25, 2002).
16 "Midwest Gen. Eyes Temp Workers As Strike Talks Stall," Dow Jones Newswires, August 22, 2001, on the Internet at http://ptg.djnr.com/ccroot/asp/publib/story_multiasp?rndnum=485683 (visited February 25, 2002).
17 "Midwest Gen: Pwr Workers Can’t Return Without Contract," Dow Jones Newswires, September 6, 2001, on the Internet at http://ptg.djnr.com/ccroot/asp/publib/story_multi.asp?rndnum=485683.
18 "Despite Offer to End 10-Week-Old Strike, Chicago Power Company Locks Out Workers," Daily Labor Report, September 10, 2001, p. A14.
19 "Powerton workers see final offer - Parent company pushes for vote," Peoria Journal Star, September 22, 2001, p. C2.
20 "Members of IBEW Local 15 Reject Midwest Generation’s Back-to Work Offer," Daily Labor Report, October 10, 2001, p. A1.
21 "Midwest Generation Pwr Workers OK Deal; Will Work Next Wk," Dow Jones Newswires, October 17, 2001, on the Internet at http://ptg.djnr.com/ccroot/asp/publib/story_multi.asp?rndnum=849133 (visited October 22, 2001).
22 "Pekin Powerton plant workers accept new contract - Local 15 voted 633 to 278 for deal they previously rejected," Peoria Star Journal, October 18, 2001, p. B1.
23 "HSTA Declares Impasse in Negotiations With State," Hawaii State Teachers Association news release, November 14, 2002, on the Internet at http://www.hsta.org/pressroom/impasse.html (visited April 4. 2002).
24 "Strikes Shut Down Hawaii Public Schools," New York Times, April 6, 2001, p. A11.
25 "State and Teachers’ Union Reach Contract Agreement," Hawaii Office of the Governor news release, 01-026, April 24, 2001, pp. 1-2.
26 "Contract Update: DOE/BOE deadlock," Hawaii State Teachers Association news release, July 15, 2001, on the Internet at http://hsta.org/topnews/deadlock.html (visited April 4, 2002).
27 "HSTA Files Complaint With Labor Board," Hawaii State Teachers Association news release, August 14, 2001, on the Internet at http://www.hsta.org/topnews/filed804.html (visited April 4, 2002).
28 "Undisputed Portion of Teachers’ Contract to be Implemented Immediately," Hawaii State Teachers Association news release, September 18, 2001, http://www.hsta.org/pressroom/implement.html (visited April 4, 2002).
29 "Finding of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order," Case No. CU-05-475, Decision No. 431, Hawaii Labor Relations Board, February 7, 2002, p. 24.