If the recent threat from the United Auto Workers to strike at the Ford plant in Kansas City seems like a strange event, that may be because strikes are much rarer than they were only a decade ago.
There have been only 1,600 work stoppages from labor disputes in the last decade — compared to twice as many between 1995 and 2004. In the decade before that, there were four times as many, according to a Big Crunch analysis of data from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
If we look only at major strikes — those that affect at least 1,000 workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — there were three times as many of those strikes as two decades ago. That added up to six times as many working hours and billions of dollars of lost work compared to the number of stoppages today.
Some might argue that the reduction in union size is the main reason strikes are down, but consider this: over that period, union membership fell only 10 percent. The number of strikes is down much more.