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Work Stoppages

General overview of work stoppages in the U.S.

Between 1947 and 2020 there were 11,552 major work stoppages. The decade of 1947-1956 was the most active with the average of 344 stoppages per year. The 2007-2016 decade averaged 14 work stoppages, while the period of 2017-2020 averaged 15. (See chart 1).

Chart 1. Average annual number of work stoppages by decade 1947-2020

 

  • See table for chart 1
    • Table 1. Average annual number of work stoppages by decade, 1947-2020
      Decade Average number of work stoppages by decade

      1947-1956

      344

      1957-1966

      250

      1967-1976

      332

      1977-1986

      145

      1987-1996

      40

      1997-2006

      24

      2007-2016

      14

      2017-2020*

      15

      * This period is less then 10 years

      Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Major Work Stoppages Program

Several factors, such as the growth of the service industry, technology, and declining union membership have led to a significant reduction in the number of work stoppages. While the percent of union members [1] decreased from 20.1 percent in 1983 to 10.8 percent in 2020, the number of work stoppages have fallen from 81 to 8 in corresponding years. (See chart 2.)

Chart 2. Percent of employed union members and number of work stoppages (1983-2020)

 

  • See table for chart 2
    • Table 2. Percent of employed union members and number of work stoppages, 1983-2020
      Year Percent of employed, members of unions Number of work stoppages

      1983

      20.1% 81

      1984

      18.8% 62

      1985

      18.0% 54

      1986

      17.5% 69

      1987

      17.0% 46

      1988

      16.8% 40

      1989

      16.4% 51

      1990

      16.0% 44

      1991

      16.0% 40

      1992

      15.7% 35

      1993

      15.7% 35

      1994

      15.5% 45

      1995

      14.9% 31

      1996

      14.5% 37

      1997

      14.1% 29

      1998

      13.9% 34

      1999

      13.9% 17

      2000

      13.4% 39

      2001

      13.3% 29

      2002

      13.3% 19

      2003

      12.9% 14

      2004

      12.5% 17

      2005

      12.5% 22

      2006

      12.0% 20

      2007

      12.1% 21

      2008

      12.4% 15

      2009

      12.3% 5

      2010

      11.9% 11

      2011

      11.8% 19

      2012

      11.3% 19

      2013

      11.3% 15

      2014

      11.1% 11

      2015

      11.1% 12

      2016

      10.7% 15

      2017

      10.7% 7

      2018

      10.5% 20

      2019

      10.3% 25

      2020

      10.8% 8

      Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Major Work Stoppages Program

Decreases in the number of work stoppages and the number of workers involved are especially noticeable during and right after recessions, and hit an all-time low (5) in 2009. Chart 3 demonstrates the number of annual work stoppages with grey bars indicating the recession periods.

Chart 3. Number of work stoppages, 1947-2020

 

  • See table for chart 3
    •  Table 3. Annual work stoppages involving 1,000 or more workers, 1947 - 2020
      Period Number of work stoppages beginning in a period

      1947

      270

      1948

      245

      1949

      262

      1950

      424

      1951

      415

      1952

      470

      1953

      437

      1954

      265

      1955

      363

      1956

      287

      1957

      279

      1958

      332

      1959

      245

      1960

      222

      1961

      195

      1962

      211

      1963

      181

      1964

      246

      1965

      268

      1966

      321

      1967

      381

      1968

      392

      1969

      412

      1970

      381

      1971

      298

      1972

      250

      1973

      317

      1974

      424

      1975

      235

      1976

      231

      1977

      298

      1978

      219

      1979

      235

      1980

      187

      1981

      145

      1982

      96

      1983

      81

      1984

      62

      1985

      54

      1986

      69

      1987

      46

      1988

      40

      1989

      51

      1990

      44

      1991

      40

      1992

      35

      1993

      35

      1994

      45

      1995

      31

      1996

      37

      1997

      29

      1998

      34

      1999

      17

      2000

      39

      2001

      29

      2002

      19

      2003

      14

      2004

      17

      2005

      22

      2006

      20

      2007

      21

      2008

      15

      2009

      5

      2010

      11

      2011

      19

      2012

      19

      2013

      15

      2014

      11

      2015

      12

      2016

      15

      2017

      7

      2018

      20

      2019

      25

      2020

      8

      Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Major Work Stoppages Program.

Of the 591 major work stoppages that occurred between 1993 and 2020, 434 occurred in the private industry, 107 in local government, and 51 in state government level.

Chart 4. Total number of work stoppages by ownership 1993-2020

 

  • See table for chart 4
    • Table 4. Number of work stoppages by ownership, 1993-2020
      Ownership Number of work stoppages

      Private industry

      434

      Local government

      107

      State government

      51

      Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Major Work Stoppages Program

The vast majority of stoppages during that time period, 487, occurred within individual states while 104 occurred in two or more states. California, the state with the largest share of national labor force (over 11 percent), had a largest share of work stoppages at about 24 percent, whereas Texas which accounts for around 9 percent of national labor force accounted for around 3 percent of all work stoppages (excluding interstate and nationally reported stoppages). (See chart 5.)

Chart 5. Share of national employment and share of major work stoppages (in percent) by state, 1993-2020

 

  • See table for chart 5
    •  Table 5. Annual work stoppages involving 1,000 or more workers, 1993 - 2020
      State Work stoppages

      California

      144

      Illinois

      56

      New York

      49

      Pennsylvania

      46

      Ohio

      42

      Michigan

      37

      Washington

      36

      Minnesota

      26

      Indiana

      22

      Interstate

      22

      New Jersey

      21

      Texas

      17

      Massachusetts

      17

      Missouri

      17

      Oregon

      17

      Connecticut

      15

      Tennessee

      14

      Kentucky

      13

      Colorado

      13

      West Virginia

      13

      Iowa

      12

      Virginia

      11

      Alabama

      11

      Maryland

      11

      Wisconsin

      11

      Kansas

      10

      Rhode island

      10

      Hawaii

      10

      Georgia

      8

      North Carolina

      8

      Dist. of Columbia

      8

      Louisiana

      7

      Florida

      7

      Nevada

      6

      Arizona

      6

      Nationwide

      6

      Mississippi

      6

      Maine

      5

      Nebraska

      4

      New Hampshire

      4

      Oklahoma

      4

      Vermont

      4

      Delaware

      3

      South Carolina

      3

      Utah

      3

      Arkansas

      3

      Alaska

      2

      New Mexico

      2

      Idaho

      1

      Montana

      1

      North Dakota

      1

      Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Major Work Stoppages Program.

These data also allow users to evaluate differences in the number of annual work stoppages by industry. Chart 6 demonstrates that from 1993 to 2020, there were as many stoppages in manufacturing (162) as in construction (61), transpotation and wearhousing (54), public administration (24), and retail trade (23) industries combined. Healthcare and social assistance had a total of 92 work stoppages while educational services had 95 work stoppages.

Chart 6. Total number of annual stoppages by industry between 1993 and 2020c

   

  • See table for chart 6
    •  Table 6. Number of major work stoppages by industry, 1993 - 2020
      Industry Number of stoppages

      Manufacturing

      162

      Educational services

      95

      Healthcare and social assistance

      92

      Construction

      61

      Transportation and warehousing

      54

      Public administration

      24

      Retail Trade

      23

      Information

      21

      Utilities

      14

      Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services

      12

      Accommodation and food services

      10

      Mining

      9

      Wholesale trade

      4

      Finance and insurance

      4

      Real estate and rental and leasing

      3

      Professional, scientific, and technical services

      2

      Arts, entertainment, and recreation

      2

      Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Major Work Stoppages Program.

Top 5 longest work stoppages that occurred between 1993 and 2020 lasted for over a year. The longest one, the Marine Towing and Transportation Employers' Association, lasted for almost 6 years. One thousand six hundred workers were kept from their jobs resulting in 2,895,200 days idle.

Chart 7. Longest work stoppages, 1993 and 2020

 

  • See table for chart 7
    •  Table 7. Longest work stoppages, 1993 - 2020
      Organization(s) involved State(s) Area(s) Ownership Industry code Union Work stoppage beginning date Work stoppage ending date Number of workers Calendar days Work days lost in work stoppage

      Marine Towing and Transportation Employers' Association & International Longshoremen's Association[1]

      NY New York Private Industry 488330 International Longshoremen's Association 2/16/1988 12/20/1993 1,600 2135 1476

      Kaiser Aluminum Corp. & United Steelworkers

      LA, OH, WA Multiple States Private Industry 331312 United Steelworkers 10/1/1998 9/18/2000 14,000 719 493

      Ormet & United Steelworkers

      OH Hannibal Private Industry 331310 United Steelworkers 11/22/2004 7/16/2006 2,500 602 435

      Detroit Newspapers & International Brotherhood of Teamsters and other Metropolitan Council of Newspaper Unions

      MI Detroit Private Industry 51111 International Brotherhood of Teamsters and other Metropolitan Council of Newspaper Unions 7/13/1995 2/19/1997 3,000 588 405

      Caterpillar, Inc. & United Automobile Workers[2]

      IL, MI, PA, CO Multiple States Private Industry 3331 United Automobile Workers 6/20/1994 12/3/1995 1,200 532 368

      Footnotes:

      [1] The number of workers decreased to 2,000 in December 1989, and to 1,600 in December 1990.

      [2] Number of workers involved decreased from initial 14,000 to 11,000 as 3,000 returned to work by 06/27/1994.

      Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Major Work Stoppages Program

The 5 largest work stoppages by number of workers involved between 1993 and 2020 included four private industry companies and one state government. Together, these 5 stoppages included over 700,000 workers.

Chart 8. Longest work stoppages by number of workers involved, 1993 and 2020

 

  • See table for chart 8
    •  Table 8. Largest work stoppages by number of workers involved, 1993 - 2020
      Organization(s) involved State(s) Area(s) Ownership Industry code Union Work stoppage beginning date Work stoppage ending date Number of workers Days idle, cumulative for this work stoppage

      United Parcel Service & International Brotherhood of Teamsters[1]

      Interstate Private Industry 49211 International Brotherhood of Teamsters 8/4/1997 8/21/1997 180,000 2,032,500

      General Motors Corp. & United Automobile Workers[2]

      Interstate Private Industry 3361 United Automobile Workers 6/5/1998 7/29/1998 152,200 3,313,000

      General Motors Corp. & United Automobile Workers[2]

      OH Dayton Private Industry 3361 United Automobile Workers 3/8/1996 3/22/1996 136,000 1,260,000

      Association of National Advertisers; American Association of Advertising Agencies & American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Screen Actors Guild

      AR, MA, IL, Multiple Private Industry 54181 American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Screen Actors Guild 5/1/2000 10/30/2000 135,000 17,280,000

      North Carolina State Legislature & North Carolina Association of Educators[3]

      NC Statewide State Government 611110 North Carolina Association of Educators 5/16/2018 5/16/2018 123,000 123,000

      Footnotes:

      [1] All workers returned to work on 08/17/1997, with the exception of two locals in Chicago.

      [2] Excludes workers in Canada and Mexico.

      [3] Estimates based on identified school closings and employee data from North Carolina Board of Education reports.

      Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Major Work Stoppages Program

 

The 5 major work stoppages with the most days of idleness occurred in private industry. The largest one, between Association of National Advertisers; American Association of Advertising Agencies and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Screen Actors Guild, accounted for over 17 million days of idleness.

Chart 9. Largest work stoppages by days idle from 1993 to 2020

 

  • See table for chart 9
    •  Table 9. Largest major work stoppages by days idle, 1993 - 2020
      Organization(s) involved State(s) Area(s) Ownership Industry code Union Work stoppage beginning date Work stoppage ending date Number of workers Days idle, cumulative for this work stoppage

      Marine Towing and Transportation Employers' Association & International Longshoremen's Association

      NY New York Private Industry 488330 International Longshoremen's Association 2/16/1988 12/20/1993 2,500 2,879,500

      General Motors Corp. & United Automobile Workers

      Interstate Private Industry 3361 United Automobile Workers 6/5/1998 7/29/1998 152,200 3,313,000

      Caterpillar, Inc. & United Automobile Workers

      IL, MI, PA, CO Multiple States Private Industry 3331 United Automobile Workers 6/20/1994 12/3/1995 14,000 4,063,000

      Albertsons, Ralphs, and Vons Markets & United Food and Commercial Workers & United Food and Commercial Workers

      CA Southern CA Private Industry 445110 United Food and Commercial Workers 10/12/2003 2/29/2004 67,300 5,718,100

      Association of National Advertisers; American Association of Advertising Agencies & American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Screen Actors Guild

      AR, MA, IL, OH, TX, CO, NV, NM, UT, MI, FL, GA, HI, MN, MO, TN, NC, PA, OR, CA, WA, DC, MD Multiple States Private Industry 54181 American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Screen Actors Guild 5/1/2000 10/30/2000 135,000 17,280,000

      Footnotes:

      [1] The number of workers decreased to 2,000 in December 1989, and to 1,600 in December 1990.

      [2] Excludes Canada and Mexico.

      [3] Number of workers involved decreased from initial 14,000 to 11,000 as 3,000 returned to work by 06/27/1994.

      Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Major Work Stoppages Program.

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