On Monday, nearly 50,000 members of the United Automobile Workers union went on strike at General Motors, demanding better pay and the reopening of several U.S. plants. If the strike persists for more than a few weeks, it will go down as one of the largest strikes in U.S. history.
Individually, workers do not have access to the same type of influence on their own and often even lack the power to influence within their own jobs. As a result, many have banded together to form unions. Unions allow members to have a single collective voice when negotiating for higher pay and improved working conditions. Unions can also prevent members from being fired or let go without severance. These are the jobs with the best and worst job security.
One of the most powerful tools in a union’s arsenal is labor stoppage, or strike, where all members agree to stop working until certain demands are met. Replacing all employees would be costly for a business, and strikes can often force companies to meet union demands. While the intention is a quick resolution, strikes can stretch for months and even years, resulting in millions of cumulative lost working days for the thousands of workers on strike and for their places of work.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as well as media and archive reports on historic work stoppages to determine the largest worker strikes in American history.
American unions have lost the power they once held. The ruling in the 2018 Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME determined that public sector unions cannot require members to pay “agency fees,” which are similar to union dues. This means that non-union members can more easily reap the benefits of unions without paying into them. Many will likely choose not to pay, and experts predict certain unions, like those for firefighters and teachers, will lose money and political influence. Still, the strength of a union can vary greatly from state to state based on that state’s labor laws. These are the states with the strongest and weakest unions.