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Striking Back: The 10 Biggest Work Stoppages Last Year

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Writers Guild of America strike in front of Netflix in Los Angeles
Jack Quillin / Shutterstock.com

Last year was the biggest one for labor strikes since the turn of the century.

During the past 20 years, there have been an average of about 17 major strikes per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which calls them “work stoppages.” In 2023, there were nearly twice that many.

Following are the most significant strikes that took place during and ended in 2023, ranked according to the total number of days on strike for all workers combined.

10. DCC vs. Detroit casinos

MotorCity Casino in Detroit
Jay Fog / Shutterstock.com

Cumulative days idle: 99,500

Strike duration: Oct. 17 – Dec. 2, 2023

Workers involved: 3,700 workers associated with the Detroit Casino Council

Workers from the MGM Grand Detroit held a 47-day strike ending in a five-year contract that included an 18% immediate raise as well as a bonus, lighter workloads and other protections for workers. That strike coincided with a monthlong strike by workers including dealers, food service workers, cleaning staff and valets at the city’s other two casinos. Unionized workers from all three casinos are members of the Detroit Casino Council.

9. UAW vs. Mack Trucks

United Auto Workers sign UAW
Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock.com

Cumulative days idle: 112,000

Strike duration: Oct. 9 – Nov. 19, 2023

Workers involved: 4,000 workers associated with five local unions of United Auto Workers

Volvo-owned Mack Trucks, maker of semitrucks and other heavy-duty vehicles, agreed to a contract with substantial raises for workers at facilities in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Florida after a strike that lasted more than a month. Union workers rejected an initial offer of a 19% raise over time — arguing it didn’t keep up with high inflation — and ending up with a deal offering an average raise of 36% over five years, including an immediate pay boost of about 15% for all employees.

8. USW vs. Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

United Steelworkers Union logo on a phone
viewimage / Shutterstock.com

Cumulative days idle: 156,400

Strike duration: Aug. 4 – Dec. 15, 2023

Workers involved: 1,700 workers associated with of United Steelworkers local union 4-200

Nurses at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Jersey went on strike for nearly four months over staffing issues, insurance benefits and sick time off. They were represented by the United Steelworkers, which — despite the name — has workers in many industries, including health care.

The strike ended with a three-year agreement to improve staffing levels and infrastructure to keep nurses from being stretched too thin. As part of the agreement, the hospital will hire for 70 new registered nurse positions.

7. UAW vs. CNH Industrial

United Auto Workers Union or UAW on strike
TravelEatShoot / Shutterstock.com

Cumulative days idle: 180,000

Strike duration: May 2, 2022 – Jan. 21, 2023

Workers involved: 1,000 workers of United Auto Workers local unions 180 and 807

A strike in Wisconsin and Iowa that lasted more than half a year required the help of U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh to resolve. Workers for CNH Industrial, a farm equipment manufacturer, walked out and then picketed outside buildings day and night over issues that included pay, time off and health care.

The details of the agreement were not shared publicly, but previous offers were shot down. Some union members remained unsatisfied with the results, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

6. SEIU vs. Los Angeles public schools

SEIU union rally in Los Angeles
Josiah True / Shutterstock.com

Cumulative days idle: 195,000

Strike duration: March 21-23, 2023

Workers involved: 65,000 workers associated with Service Employees International Union local 99

The Los Angeles Unified School District, which oversees K-12 education in the city and is the second-largest district in the country, agreed to a new contract after a three-day strike. The strike was waged to get raises for bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, teaching assistants and campus security, who had an average annual salary of $25,000 beforehand.

In the end, workers received a 30% pay raise, retroactive pay and a bonus. The minimum wage for service workers was raised, and part-time employees who work at least four hours per day became eligible for health benefits.

5. SEIU, OPEIU and IFPTE vs. Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente strike in Los Angeles
Ringo Chiu / Shutterstock.com

Cumulative days idle: 226,800

Strike duration: Oct. 4-7, 2023

Workers involved: 75,600 workers associated with local unions of the Service Employees International Union; Office and Professional Employees International Union; and Engineers and Scientists of California

A coalition of unions organized a three-day strike of the health-care company by nurses, pharmacists and ER technicians that led to a 21% pay increase over four years. “The deal also requires Kaiser to invest in job training programs and to use referral bonuses, mass job fairs and other workforce development efforts to ensure an adequate supply of new employees for the future,” NPR reports.

4. GEO vs. University of Michigan

University of Michigan
Dark Vader / Shutterstock.com

Cumulative days idle: 239,200

Strike duration: March 29 – Aug. 25, 2023

Workers involved: 2,300 workers associated with the Graduate Employees’ Organization

Graduate student instructors and teaching assistants at the University of Michigan walked out late in the spring semester, refusing to turn in grades for some of the classes they taught. They reached a deal with the school just before the start of the fall semester, securing pay increases, one-time bonuses, improved health benefits and maternity leave that is on par with what permanent faculty enjoy.

3. UAW vs. Ford, General Motors and Stellantis

UAW workers and students on strike
Ringo Chiu / Shutterstock.com

Cumulative days idle: 869,200

Strike duration: Sept. 15 – Oct. 30, 2023

Workers involved: 49,800 workers associated with many United Auto Workers local unions

The United Auto Workers struck three major carmakers — General Motors, Ford and Jeep-maker Stellantis — and secured deals with each of them in a six-week span. Workers won an 11% immediate pay increase and raises through 2028 that will top 30% in total, the Associated Press reports.

2. WGA vs. Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers

Writers Guild of America workers striking in Los Angeles
Ringo Chiu / Shutterstock.com

Cumulative days idle: 1,173,000

Strike duration: May 2 – Sept. 24, 2023

Workers involved: 11,500 workers associated with the Writers Guild of America West and Writers Guild of America East

The second-largest strike of the year was one of the best-known — because it shut down swaths of Hollywood for five months. On top of concerns about pay and benefits, the sticking points for big entertainment companies’ negotiating with TV and film writers included rules about the industry’s use of AI and sharing the earnings from the ongoing popularity of streaming content. The final deal was valued at $233 million, almost triple an earlier industry offer.

1. SAG-AFTRA vs. Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers

SAG-AFTRA Screen Actors Guild strike in Los Angeles
Ringo Chiu / Shutterstock.com

Cumulative days idle: 13,120,000

Strike duration: July 14 – Nov. 8, 2023

Workers involved: 160,000 workers associated with the Screen Actors Guild American Federation of Television and Radio Artists

A separate but related and overlapping strike — not for writers but a larger number of actors — ended more than a month later with a similar agreement. Members of the Screen Actors Guild won a bonus guarantee for streaming blockbusters, restraints on the use of AI to replicate actors’ likeness, relocation pay and multiple overall pay increases over two years.

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