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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Major strikes in 2023 set 20-year record, Labor Department says

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher, white cap front, and National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, left, greet picketers at the Netflix picket line in Los Angeles, on July 14, 2023.   (Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
By Lauren Kaori Gurley Washington Post

American workers led 33 major strikes in 2023, the most in more than two decades, the Labor Department reported Wednesday, as a booming labor market fueled a strong year of activity for unions.

In total, 458,900 workers participated in major strikes, defined as involving 1,000 or more workers, according to the Labor Department. That’s more than three times the number of strikes in 2022, according to the agency’s data, which excludes a lot of strikes at smaller workplaces.

Last year’s major strikes included the high-profile Hollywood actors and screenwriters strike that paralyzed the entertainment industry for months; the first-ever simultaneous work stoppage against all Big Three Detroit automakers; and one of the largest health-care strikes in U.S. history. These work stoppages resulted in historic wage gains and new protections related to emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and electric vehicles.

Still, these elevated numbers vastly underestimate the wide-ranging impact of labor strikes in 2023, many of which took place in smaller workplaces such as Starbucks stores and Walgreens pharmacies.