Unions say 18-year high for major work stoppages shows workers are ‘fed up’

UAW picket at the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, Sept. 25, 2019 | Andrew Roth

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says major work stoppages in 2019 involved the highest number of workers from around the country in 18 years.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 425,500 workers involved in major work stoppages that began in 2019.

Chart from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI)

Major work stoppages are defined as both worker-initiated strikes and employer-initiated lockouts that involve 1,000 or more workers and last at least one shift by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

More than 270,000 of those workers were in the educational services industry, but the largest stoppage by lost workdays was the United Automobile Workers’ (UAW) strike last fall against General Motors (GM), which involved 46,000 workers.

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Trumka said the strike statistics represent nothing less than a sea change in America.

“Working people — completely fed up with an economic and political system that does not work for us — are turning to each other and using every tool at our disposal to win a better deal,” said Trumka.

Trumka also applauded some workers’ courage to initiate strikes.

Because of the courage of every worker who said enough is enough, we all stand on a stronger foundation today. Solidarity works, and we’re just getting started,” said Trumka.

AFL-CIO spokesman Joshua Pugh says that the amount of activism shown in 2019 helped to deliver concrete wins for thousands of workers in Michigan and their families. He adds that 2019 shows that workers are at a watershed moment in the country.

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“[President] Trump will continue to brag about his tax cuts for the wealthy and how great Wall Street is doing, but working people are getting squeezed,” said Pugh.

Pugh also added that too many of the gains produced by workers are flowing to the top 1%, and working people are paying for it.

“In 2020 we’ll continue to stand in solidarity with those who want to use their collective power to win better working conditions and larger paychecks,” said Pugh.

Madeline Ciak
Madeline Ciak covers the economy, health care and safety net, immigration and politics. She’s a University of Michigan-Flint graduate and previously worked as a digital media manager at NBC25/FOX66 in Flint and a weekend producer at ABC12. When she’s not writing or editing, she can be found reading, whipping something up in the Instant Pot, gardening or treasure hunting at thrift stores.