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Labor Market Overview


As occupations and trades evolved over the decades in the United States, so have the workers that have been on strike. The Bureau of Labor Statistics monitors and tracks the number of idle workers on strike nationwide, known as work stoppages.


For over 200 years, strikes in the United States have usually evolved from a specific group of workers or labor group. This past year, educational service workers including teachers and office staff for schools, accounted for over 90% of all workers on strike in 2018. Other industries whose employees were also on strike in 2018 included healthcare, hospitality, and information. Incidentally, 2018 saw the most number of workers strike since 1986.


Workers in America have been going on strike since the days of the Thirteen Colonies. Among one of the nation's earliest strikes was the chimney sweepers’ strike of 1763, which occurred in Charleston. Other significant strikes that happened during the 1700’s included tradesman such as tailors, printers, weavers, and river pilots. The 1800’s saw numerous occupational strikes as well, many of which have become obsolete, such as shoebinders, bookbinders, cigar makers, cloakmakers, and pullmen.


Tensions among employers and workers escalated during the U.S. industrialization revolution, when low pay and torrid working conditions became forefront issues. The introduction of unions led to organized groups of skilled laborers and occupational groups. From time to time, unions would organize strikes in order to press for revised working conditions or pay.


Source: Department of Labor, BLS




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