Despite the Widespread Steelworker Strike at Oil Refiners Across the US, Union Strikes are a Dying Pressure Tactic

In the 1950’s there were an average of 352 large-scale work stoppages each year. A large-scale work stoppage is defined as at least 1000 workers walking off the job. 1952 saw the most large-scale strikes – 470 – when 2.7 million workers took part in workplace stoppages. Since then, the number of strikes has fallen each decade. In 1962 and the 1970’s, the rate slowed to an average of 282. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan fired over 11,000 air traffic controllers for violating a prohibition on strikes by federal employees; since then there have never been more than 100 large work stoppages a year, and the number continues to ratchet down. Since 1989, there have been fewer than 50 work stoppages a year; since 2000, fewer than 30; and since 2007 fewer than 20. Last year, in 2014, there were just 9. What was once considered the ultimate ace in the hole is no longer an effective labor relations strategy.

Matt Austin is a lawyer based in the Columbus, Ohio office of Roetzel & Andress, LPA who limits his practice to representing employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at (614) 723-2010 or email him at