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News from EPI Major strike activity increased by 280% in 2023

More than 458,000 workers were involved in major strikes in 2023, according to an EPI analysis of data released this morning from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This marks a 280% increase compared with 2022, returning to levels last seen prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

These strikes included workers across the country—from auto workers to Hollywood writers and actors, nurses, and public school teachers. Roughly 75% of major work stoppages in 2023 took place in the private sector—with over half occurring in a health care setting, including the largest recorded health care strike in U.S. history involving more than 75,000 Kaiser Permanente health care workers.  

Crucially, the BLS data do not capture all strike activity because BLS only includes strikes involving 1,000 or more workers lasting at least one full shift. For example, a six-week strike involving 750 Temple University graduate student workers was not captured in the 2023 data, because it did not meet the BLS size limitations. 

“A surge of workers went on strike in 2023 to fight back against record corporate profits, stratospheric CEO pay, and decades of stagnant wages. From the United Auto Workers to nurses across the country, these strikes provided critical leverage to workers to secure better wages and working conditions,” said Margaret Poydock, EPI senior policy analyst.  

However, the fact remains that current labor law fails to adequately protect workers’ fundamental right to strike. To strengthen the right to strike, Congress should pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act and the Striking Workers Healthcare Protection Act, among other key policies. The report also urges state lawmakers to protect the right to strike for public-sector, agricultural, and domestic workers who are otherwise excluded from federal labor law.   

“The increase in major strike activity in 2023 occurred despite our weak and outdated labor law failing to protect workers’ right to strike. Federal and state action is needed to ensure the right to strike,” said Jennifer Sherer, EPI director of the State Worker Power Initiative.