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Strikes Rising for First Time Since '80, U.S. Figures Show; Wage, Benefit Cuts Blamed

March 12, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Strikes are on the increase for the first time this decade as union workers increasingly are saying "enough" to wage and benefit concessions while company managers nervous about corporate raiders feel compelled to keep demanding them.

The number and magnitude of major work stoppages rose sharply in 1986 after declining the previous two years, according to new Labor Department statistics, although they still are well below the levels of the past three decades. There were 69 major work stoppages--defined as strikes or lockouts affecting 1,000 workers or more--last year, compared to 54 in 1985 and 62 in 1984, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. And the number of workers who were idled jumped from about 333,000 to more than 500,000.

"The unions feel they've come to the end of the line on give-backs and concessions," said Leo Troy, a labor economics professor at Rutgers University. "On the other hand, economic conditions are working against them, particularly in manufacturing--just look at the trade balance with Japan."

Charles Craypo, chairman of the economics department at the University of Notre Dame, said many employers are going for their third or fourth straight round of concessions.

"Workers and unions are resisting because their experience leads them to believe that concessions won't save their jobs," he said, referring to several recently announced steel, auto and telephone-equipment plant closings. "It's those two forces that are colliding."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, nearly 11.9 million workdays were lost to strikes or lockouts last year, a 68% increase over 1984.

Accounting for more than half the idle days were a 25-day strike against American Telephone & Telegraph Co., a six-month strike-lockout involving 22,000 United Steelworkers at USX Corp. and a strike-lockout that put 13,000 members of the United Auto Workers off the job for five months at Deere & Co.

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