On Strike! Huge U.S. Work Stoppages

  • On Strike in America

    Every month the Bureau of Labor Statistics collects data about American workers going on strike. They note the number of workers who strike, the start and end dates of the strike, and how many idle days the strike causes (that’s one day per worker on strike ... so if 300 workers strike for three days, that 900 idle days). What the BLS doesn’t note is the cause of the strike and the reason for its resolution. We had to do some digging for that information, and in some cases, the details remain a mystery. Now, the biggest strikes in America in the past couple years... Photo Credit: swanksalot
    Bell Helicopter Textron Incorporated
  • Bell Helicopter Textron Incorporated

    Strikers: United Auto Workers Local 218 Location: Fort Worth, Texas Number of Workers Striking: 2,500 Duration: 6/15/09 - 7/22/09 Total Days Idle: 67,500 According to the Dallas Morning News, the contentious 6-week strike, which was initially sparked by increased health care costs and the proposed elimination of some unionized positions, ended rather abruptly. The paper reports that a new contract “gives raises of 3 percent in each of the last three years of the four-year contract instead of 3 percent raises in the final two years of a three-year deal Bell had offered, [UAW Local 218’s Gary] Livingston said. It also provides a signing bonus of $3,500 instead of $4,500. A group of janitorial workers who faced losing their jobs will get higher job classifications under the new deal. Also, health care costs will still rise but the most expensive option for employees was removed in the latest offer, he said.” Photo Credit: Aaron Escobar
    Kent Public School District
  • Kent Public School District

    Strikers: Kent Education Association Location: Kent, Wash. Number of Workers Striking: 1,900 Duration: 8/27/09 - 9/13/09 Total Days Idle: 20,900 This teacher strike in Kent, a city of about 90,000 between Auburn and Seattle, was sparked primarily over the issue of overcrowding in classrooms. Though neither the union nor the school district released details of the settlement, The Seattle Times reports that, “The proposed settlement came a day before teachers would have faced court-ordered fines of $200 a day for refusing to return to work.” Photo Credit: Daniel Spils
    Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority
  • Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority

    Strikers: Transport Union Local 234 Location: Philadelphia Number of Workers Striking: 5,500 Duration: 11/3/09 - 11/9/09 Total Days Idle: 27,500 Philadelphia’s public transportation system ground to a halt last November when workers walked off the job, leaving nearly 1 million subway, bus and trolley riders looking for commuting alternatives. Like many other strikes, this one occurred over contract disputes, and according to Philly.com, the terms of settlement include the following key provisions: “The five-year contract…calls for a 2.5 percent raise in the second year, and a 3 percent raise in each of the final three years. It increases workers' contributions to the pension fund from the current 2 percent to 3 percent and increased the maximum pension to $30,000 a year from the current $27,000 a year.” Photo Credit: Hong Kong dear Edward
    American Axle and Manufacturing, Inc.
  • American Axle and Manufacturing, Inc.

    Strikers: United Auto Workers International, Locals 235, 262, 424, 846, 2093 Location: Cheektowaga, N.Y.; Tonowanda, N.Y.; Detroit, Mich.; Hamtramck, Mich.; Three Rivers, Mich. Number of Workers Striking: 3,600 Duration: 2/26/08 - 5/22/08 Total Days Idle: 226,800 American Axle and Manufacturing is one of General Motors’ biggest suppliers and the 87-day strike hurt the already struggling U.S. automaker. Nevertheless, the unions were ultimately forced to make major concessions, agreeing to significant wage and cost-cutting measures in their new 4-year contract. According to Reuters, “Despite the contract's tough terms, including a cut in wages by over a third, many American Axle workers said they were concerned that the weak U.S. economy and slumping truck sales would undermine any attempt to win more.” Photo Credit: Patricia Drury
  • Boeing

    Strikers: International Association of Machinists, Districts 24, 70, 751 Location: Puget Sound, Wash.; Gresham, Ore.; Wichita, Kan.; Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Number of Workers Striking: 27,000 Duration: 9/06/08 - 11/01/08 Total Days Idle: 1,053,000 This 57-day strike reportedly cost aerospace company Boeing more than $2 billion in profits, but they certainly weren’t the only ones who suffered, as reported by The Seattle Times. “With 25,000 families in the Puget Sound region without paycheck,” the article stated, “small businesses here that provide services to Boeing workers have seen revenues plummet.” The article went on to say that ultimately, “the deal provides similar compensation to what was offered before the strike, though extended to four years from three and including a few significant Boeing concessions.” The fact that workers didn’t wind up with a better contract disappointed many workers, who after eight weeks with no paycheck, had hoped for more. Photo Credit: smaedli
    Hawker Beechcraft, Inc.
  • Hawker Beechcraft, Inc.

    Strikers: International Association of Machinists, Local 733, 2328 Location: Wichita, Kan.; Salina, Kan. Number of Workers Striking: 5,200 Duration: 8/04/08 - 8/28/08 Total Days Idle: 98,800 Hawker Beechcraft, an aerospace company, didn’t say how the nearly month-long strike may have affected profits, but according to AviationWeek.com, 77% of striking workers approved the terms of the new contract. When the strike ended, they reported, “The annual 4 percent wage boosts were part of the company's original offer - which union members rejected by a 90 percent margin - but the agreement ratified Thursday freezes workers' premiums for health care coverage at current levels for the next three years. The company also agreed to increase pension benefits and to drop proposals that would have reduced the amount of earned time off for new employees.” Photo Credit: Bob Macinnes
    University of California
  • University of California

    Strikers: American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, Local 3299 Location: California Number of Workers Striking: 8,500 Duration: 7/14/08 - 7/18/08 Total Days Idle: 42,500 According to the union’s Web site, the strike was designed to deliver a "fair contract and an end to poverty wages.” Ultimately, while it may have accomplished that, or something close it, some have suggested that there were repercussions for the state’s already questionable finances. According to PoliticsDaily.com, “This five-day strike... eventually resulted in a five-year contract and $64 million package of wage hikes. Defying a court order declaring the strike illegal, employees stretched their picketing efforts across ten UC campuses and five medical centers. Good news for UC employees, however, meant even more budget woes for the state of California.” Photo Credit: Ingrid Taylar
    General Motors
  • General Motors

    Strikers: United Auto Workers International Union, Local 602, 31 Location: Lansing, Mich.; Kansas City, Mo. Number of Workers Striking: 4,700 Duration: 4/17/08 - 5/16/08 & 5/5/08 -5/21/08 Total Days Idle: 81,800 Two sets of workers for General Motors went on strike in 2008. When you consider the aforementioned American Axle strike, and GM’s considerable financial challenges, it’s a bit of an understatement to say that 2008 was a challenging year for the automaker, which has since declared bankruptcy. According to Workers.org, however, these strikes represented a real victory for GM employees. “Like members of four United Auto Workers locals at American Axle plants, Local 602 and Local 31... were forced to go on strike this spring. Unlike the American Axle workers…both UAW locals won better contracts for their sacrifices. The 2,300 workers in Local 602, who build SUVs for General Motors, went on strike April 17 and reached an agreement May 15 that restricts subcontracting of skilled trades and provides a say in job organization. The 1,800 workers in Local 31, who went on strike May 5 and went back to work on May 22, were able to stop GM from suspending seniority rules for various job assignments and won better terms for overtime and job classifications.” Photo Credit: mrkumm
    Volvo Trucks North America
  • Volvo Trucks North America

    Strikers: United Auto Workers International Union, Local 2069 Location: Dublin, Va Number of Workers Striking: 2,500 Duration: 2/01/08 - 3/17/08 Total Days Idle: 77,500This month-long strike eventually resulted in an improved, three-year contract for workers, but it was a long road, as The Roanoke Times reported: “Throughout the strike, the union pays members $200 a week in exchange for spending four hours on the line picketing. The sum is a far cry from the average $21 to $22 an hour employees earn at Volvo, and because of that, many workers have scaled down their spending significantly.” Photo Credit: joost-ijmuiden
    Why ‘Strike?’
  • Why ‘Strike?’

    Ever wonder why a work stoppage is called a “strike?” Well, it goes back to 18th century England. The famous Captain Cook was planning journey to the south seas… the problem was that London’s merchant sailors weren’t cooperating. Tony Taylor of  Australia’s National Centre for History Education writes, “On May 10th 1768, thousands of sailors in the Port of London decided to withdraw their labour. The simplest way they could do that was to fold or furl the sails on their yardarms so that their ships cannot sail. This was known as ‘striking’ the sails. No captain or master of a ship could possibly get under way with the sails furled and, with these 18th century sailing ships, you do need dozens of skilled deckhands to do the job. So, the sailors ‘struck’.” If you’re interested in knowing the origin of the term strike in the nautical context, read the rest of Mr. Taylor’s interesting article. Photo Credit: jaredw_1986
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