Special Report

The 31 Biggest Worker Strikes in American History

Today, the United Auto Workers (UAW), one of the largest unions in the United States, went on strike after a negotiation deadline passed without an agreement. Beginning at midnight, 13,000 workers walked off three auto plants, each owned by one of the nation’s big three automakers: Ford, GM, and Stellantis. If the strike drags on, the UAW could mobilize more of its 146,000 members to close down additional plants. One estimate suggests that the union could pay its entire membership $500 a week for 11 weeks. This strike has the potential to become one of the largest in the nation’s history.

One of the most powerful tools in a union’s arsenal is a labor stoppage, or strike, in which all members agree to stop working until certain demands are met. Replacing all employees would be costly for a business, and strikes can often compel companies to meet union demands. While the intention is to achieve 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 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. 

Many elements of gainful employment that Americans may take for granted, such as health benefits, a living wage, and the 40-hour workweek, were won by organized labor. These are the highest paying jobs in America.

Despite the periodic labor stoppages, such as the Writers Guild of America strike earlier this year, membership has been declining for decades. This pattern can be seen in our ranking of strikes by cumulative work stoppage days, with the nation’s largest worker actions tending to have occurred earlier than the less massive strikes. For a geographical perspective on union strength, here are the states with the strongest and weakest unions. 

Click here to see the 31 largest worker strikes in American history.

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