The Labor & Employment Blog is a forum for practitioners and Bloomberg BNA editors to share ideas, raise issues, and network with colleagues.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
by Robert Combs
This week’s New York
Times front-page story on lockouts used Bloomberg BNA’s labor data to make
its point—that, more than ever, employers are locking out workers to put
pressure on unions during contract negotiations. I crunched the numbers for the
reporter in this story, and I must say I was surprised to find that employers were much more likely to lock out workers in 2011 than in any other year since we started keeping track of work stoppages two decades ago.
There have been years that have seen more lockouts than the
17 that were reported to us in 2011. In 1990, our first year recording the data, there
were a whopping 37 lockouts. But, as the Times
story notes, that was in a time when labor unrest was much more prevalent than it
is today. There were a startling 834 work stoppages in 1990 alone. Suddenly,
those 37 lockouts don’t look too impressive; they accounted for only 4.4
percent of the yearly work stoppages total. The number of strikes organized by unions has
fallen dramatically since then—but the number of lockouts, meanwhile, has
stayed relatively constant. There were only 151 work stoppages last year, which
means that the 17 lockouts accounted for 11.3 percent of them. It’s the first year
on record where as many as one in 10 stoppages were initiated by the employer,
not the employees.
A look at the totals by decade provides the clearest look at
After the much-publicized NFL lockout, which affected some
2,000 players in all, the largest lockout in 2011 involved American Crystal
Sugar Co., a Moorhead, Minn.-based manufacturer that locked out approximately
1,300 members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers
International Union in three states on Aug. 1. The lockout is still
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