The disappearing strike

LBO News from Doug Henwood

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures released this morning, last year saw the smallest number of major strikes in recorded history: seven. This is close to the record low set in 2009, five—in the depths of the Great Recession, when the unemployment rate was approaching 10%. Last year’s average unemployment rate was less than half that, 4.3%.

Here’s the grim history of the decline of labor’s most powerful weapon in two graphs:

Strikes

The number of days of “idleness”—a curiously moralizing word for an instrument of class struggle—wasn’t as close to a record low. There were four years in which this measure (the number of workers involved times the length of the strike) was lower—all recent years (2009, 2010, 2013, 2014).

Between 1947 and 1979, there were an average of 303 “major” strikes (involving 1,000 or more workers) every year; since 2010, the average has been fourteen. The average number…

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