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Labor Law Recap: 2022 Was The ‘Year of the Strike’

2022 rang in a host of labor law changes and – by modern standards – a historic union organizing push. But there’s more. A recent article from Axios reveals the amount of strikes we saw in the U.S. also hit noteworthy levels last year.

The Axios report, which relied on data from Cornell University, notes several interesting data points:

  • 2022 saw a 39 percent increase in strikes relative to 2021, with 374 strikes being called last year.
  • In 2021, approximately 26,500 workers went on strike in the first half of the year whereas that number ballooned to around 78,000 in the first part of 2022.
  • There were a few very high profile strikes in 2022 garnering significant media attention, including a one-day walkout occurring at over 100 Starbucks locations and a several-day nurses strike in Minnesota that saw over 15,000 nurses walkout.

Notably, during 2020 when the pandemic was initially getting underway, we saw a significant drop in work stoppages at union sites, including lockouts.

But two years later, we clearly are in a different environment. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has a majority who widely are viewed as being very supportive of organized labor. The nationwide Starbucks campaign that took off last year served not only as a catalyst to countless union election petitions being filed at that client, but workers around the country in virtually all industries coming out to seek union representation for the first time. In addition to Starbucks, the likes of Apple and Trader Joe’s both saw union petitions for the first time.

As we sit here in in early 2023, the labor relations climate still feels very similar to that of 2022 versus 2020. Increased strike activity appears to be a symptom of the reinvigorated, aggressive union enthusiasm sweeping the U.S. Employers should take note and plan accordingly for the upcoming year.


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