2022 Annual Report
Johnnie Kallas, PhD Candidate, Cornell University ILR School
Kathryn Ritchie, BSILR ’24, Cornell University ILR School
Eli Friedman, Associate Professor of International & Comparative Labor, Cornell University ILR School
2022 was yet another important year for the US labor movement, with organizing victories at major private employers and an increase in strikes across the country from the prior year. We are pleased to release the second Cornell-ILR Labor Action Tracker Annual Report, which presents key findings from our data on work stoppages in 2022. We have created a comprehensive database of strikes across the United States because official data sources only record a small fraction of this activity. Since funding cuts by the Reagan administration in the early-1980s, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) excludes work stoppages of less than 1,000 workers from its database. As this report demonstrates, only recording very large work stoppages excludes the vast majority of strike activity and leaves practitioners, policymakers, and scholars misinformed about the true level of workplace conflict. Strikes remain an important source of labor activism and, at least in comparison to 2021, have increased in salience. In this report, we follow the lead of the BLS and document work stoppages, which include both strikes and lockouts. You can follow our project and view our monthly reports of strike activity on Twitter @ILRLaborAction.
This report is based on data we collected on strikes and lockouts in 2022. Detailed information on our project’s methodology can be found here. Further details specific to the methodology for this report can be found throughout this document. We generate all our data on strikes from several public sources, including existing work stoppage databases, news articles, and social media posts. We follow rigorous verification protocols to ensure that a strike did in fact occur and to collect data on several related variables, including, but not limited to, the size, duration, industry, and demands of a strike. We link to the sources used to generate data on each strike on our site’s interactive map. We also collect data on labor protests, but only provide summaries of work stoppages in this report because our count of protests is less comprehensive. In light of our rigorous protocols, we may underestimate the total amount of work stoppages as we cannot include events that do not have adequate verifiable information.
Updated 2021 Findings
Because we occasionally find information about work stoppages months after the event occurred, we have updated work stoppage data for last year’s report. We have found 14 additional work stoppages (all strikes) in 2021 since we issued our 2021 report, so we have updated the total number of work stoppages for that year from 265 to 279. The vast majority of these events (13 out of 14) occurred in the accommodation and food services industry and were relatively small scale (all involved fewer than 50 workers). All 14 new strikes involved nonunion workers, which means that nonunion workers organized ~36% of all work stoppages in 2021. Additional updates to our 2021 data are reflected in the figures below. We do not plan on further updating data from 2021.
Key Findings from 2022
We documented 424 work stoppages (417 strikes and seven lockouts) involving approximately 224,000 workers in 2022. These 424 work stoppages resulted in approximately 4,447,588 strike days this past year. Several important findings emerge from our 2022 data. First, the total number of work stoppages increased by ~52% (279 to 424) and the total number of approximate workers involved in work stoppages increased by ~60% (~140,000 to ~224,000) from 2021 to 2022. Second, workers in the accommodation and food services industry organized more work stoppages in 2022 (144) than any other industry, accounting for over one-third of all events. However, these work stoppages involved approximately 7,000 workers, or ~3% of the total workers involved in work stoppages in 2022. The vast majority (131, or ~91%) of work stoppages in the accommodation and food services industry were led by either Starbucks workers organizing with the Starbucks Workers United campaign or fast-food workers organizing with the Fight for $15 campaign. Third, the majority of all workers involved in work stoppages came from the educational services industry (~135,380, or ~60%). Fourth, nonunion workers continued to organize a high proportion of strikes (~32%) in 2022, though these strikes were considerably smaller than work stoppages by unionized workers. Fifth, most work stoppages in 2022 were relatively short in duration, with ~46% lasting one day or less and two-thirds lasting fewer than five days.
Finally, while we documented an uptick in strikes and approximate number of workers on strike in 2022 as compared with 2021, the level of strike activity is lower than earlier historical eras. The number of work stoppages and approximate number of workers involved in work stoppage is considerably less than the most recent comprehensive BLS data from the 1970s, and the approximate number of workers involved in work stoppages falls behind recent increases documented by the BLS in 2018 and 2019. More research is needed to make meaningful historical comparisons that account for the immense challenges facing striking workers and the labor movement more broadly.
A special thanks goes to the Cornell-ILR School for funding our project and the entire Cornell-ILR Labor Action research team for putting in the hours to document strike activity. We thank the staff at Cornell-ILR’s Worker Institute, who have continued to support and promote our project since our public launch in May 2021. We would also like to thank David Yantorno and Betsy Wiggers of Cornell-ILR’s marketing team, Mary Catt of Cornell-ILR’s communications team, and David DeMello of Cornell-ILR’s web development team for their excellent design and promotion of our report. We also thank the Washington Center for Equitable Growth for funding that has helped support and inform our project over the past six months.
Number of work stoppages and approximate number of workers involved in stoppages per month
In 2022, approximately 224,000 workers were involved in 424 work stoppages (417 strikes and seven lockouts), for a total of 4,447,588 strike days. The number of work stoppages each month stayed relatively consistent, except for a slight increase in stoppage activity between July 2022 and October 2022. In comparison to 2021, which had a total of 279 work stoppages, with approximately 140,000 workers on strike for 3,269,186 strike days, there were 145 more work stoppages with approximately 84,000 more workers on the picket line.
Labor action by industry
More work stoppages occurred in the accommodation and food services sector than any other industry in 2022 (34% of all work stoppages). The majority of workers on the picket line in 2022 were in the educational services industry, accounting for 60.4% of all workers involved in work stoppages. The educational services sector also made up the majority of strike days, accounting for 56.3%.
Labor action by duration
Approximately two-thirds of work stoppages in 2022 lasted less than five days. However, the most workers were involved in work stoppages that lasted between five and nine days, while the overwhelming majority of strike days were from strikes that lasted over a month. Similarly, in 2021, work stoppages lasting less than five days made up the majority of stoppages and work stoppages lasting over a month made up the majority of strike days.
Labor action by size
Almost half of all work stoppages in 2022 involved less than 50 workers, while in 2021, almost half of all work stoppages involved less than 100 workers. Of the approximately 224,000 workers involved in work stoppages, the vast majority in 2022 were part of stoppages involving over 1,000 workers.
Labor action by demand
The most common demands of work stoppages in 2022 involved better pay, improved health and safety, and more staffing. In 2022, an end to anti-union retaliation and reinstate terminated union activist became more common demands among work stoppages.
Labor action by unionization status
Just over two-thirds (68.9%) of all work stoppages in 2022 involved unionized workers, while just under one-third (31.1%) of all work stoppages were led by non-union workers. Unionized workers comprised the vast majority of approximate workers involved in work stoppages, accounting for 96.9%. They also accounted for 98.3% of all strike days.
Labor action by authorization status
89.9% of all unionized strikes were authorized by a union, compared to 8.8% that were unauthorized and 1.4% that were unknown. Authorized strikes comprised an even higher percentage of approximate number of workers and strike days, accounting for 98.9% and 99.9% respectively.
Labor action by geographic region
Work stoppages were more evenly distributed across all regions in 2021. In 2022, more work stoppages occurred in the West than any other region. The other three regions - the Midwest, South, and Northeast, all had similar distribution of stoppages with each other in 2022.
2022 Monthly Work Stoppages and Approximate Number of Workers Involved in Work Stoppages
NOTE: A single work stoppage may appear in multiple months.
|Work Stoppages||Approximate Number of Workers|
Industry of Work Stoppages
NOTE: A work stoppage may include workers from multiple industries.
|Industry||Work Stoppages||Approximate Number of Workers||Strike Days|
|Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting||4||230||1,250|
|Transportation and Warehousing||45||6,023||50,440|
|Real Estate and Rental and Leasing||5||702||1,002|
|Professional, Scientific and Technical Services||4||350||550|
|Management of Companies and Enterprises||0||0||0|
|Finance and Insurance||0||0||0|
|Health Care and Social Assistance||40||42,304||333,795|
|Arts, Entertainment and Recreation||11||1,752||107,996|
|Accommodation and Food Services||144||6,971||22,648|
|Administrative and Support and Waste Management||8||897||11,681|
|Other Services (except Public Administration)||3||183||3,587|
Duration of Work Stoppages
|Interval||Work Stoppages||Approximate Number of Workers||Strike Days|
|Less than or equal to 1 Day||104||197||79,774||23,226||79,559||22,734|
|2 to 4 Days||54||85||11,078||23,924||28,723||70,105|
|5 to 9 Days||25||51||3,968||87,698||29,151||583,452|
|10 to 30 Days||53||38||18,920||27,126||353,252||416,675|
|31 plus Days||42||53||32,369||66,792||2,777,621||3,354,622|
Approximate Size of Work Stoppages
|Number of Workers/ Stoppage||Work Stoppages||Approximate Number of Workers||Strike Days|
|2 to 49||101||197||2,101||3,775||30,547||52,417|
|50 to 99||44||49||3,067||2,993||54,133||81,566|
|100 to 249||45||66||6,221||8,366||96,318||89,962|
|250 to 999||38||55||17,933||21,018||740,688||369,243|
Demands of Work Stoppages
NOTE: A single work stoppage may have multiple demands. This list is not exhaustive.
|Demand||Work Stoppages||Approximate Number of Workers||Strike Days|
|Health and Safety||107||38,978||336,364.5|
|End to Sexual Harassment||6||123||8,063|
|End to Anti-union Retaliation||60||3,618||13,000|
|Reinstate Terminated Union Activist||29||711||10,984.5|
Union Versus Nonunion Work Stoppages
NOTE: By unionized, we mean after formal recognition of a union.
|Unionization Status||Work Stoppages||Approximate Number of Workers||Strike Days|
Authorized Versus Unauthorized Work Stoppages
NOTE: This only includes strikes by unionized workers. By unionized, we mean after formal recognition of a union.
|Interval||Work Stoppages||Approximate Number of Workers||Strike Days|
Geographic Breakdown of Work Stoppages.
|Region||Work Stoppages||Approximate Number of Workers||Strike Days|