Feb 12, 2020 - Economy & Business

Work stoppages from labor disputes rose to a two-decade high in 2019

United Auto Workers union members striking in October 2019. Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

3.24 million work days were lost to labor strikes and lockouts in 2019, the most since 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why it matters: Labor disputes can cost workers and businesses in missed wages, decreased productivity and stunted revenues.

By the numbers: There were 25 labor disputes involving more than 1,000 workers last year, the most since 2001.

  • 425,500 workers joined work stoppages, with 270,000 in the educational services industry alone.

Between the lines: Labor disputes may increase when the job market tightens, giving workers more leverage in negotiations for higher wages or expanded benefits, according to the Wall Street Journal.

  • The unemployment rate fell to a 50-year low in 2019, but wages only increased by 2.9% — the lowest level in a year and a half and well below the 2018 average of 3.3%, Axios' Dion Rabouin reports.
  • United Auto Workers' 40-day General Motors strike was the largest dispute, totaling 1.33 million days of lost labor and involving 46,000 workers.
  • GM reported a profit hit of 8.7% in Q3 of 2019 as a result of the stoppage.

The big picture: Labor union membership fell by 0.2% in 2019, Axios' Orion Rummler reports.

  • Only 10.3% (14.6 million) of wage and salary workers said they were union members, and around half of the members lived in just seven states — California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio and Washington.

Go deeper: Unions shrink fast in swing states

Go deeper

Government minimum wage hikes pay off for low-wage workers

Reproduced from: Economic Policy Institute; Chart: Axios Visuals

American low-wage workers increased their earnings significantly in 2019, seeing higher wage growth than workers at the higher end of the income spectrum. And that growth was largely fueled by increases in state minimum wages, a new study from the Economic Policy Institute shows.

Details: The left-leaning think tank's report finds that low-wage workers in the 23 states (plus Washington, D.C.) that raised their minimum wage last year saw "much faster wage growth than low-wage workers in states that did not increase their minimum wage between 2018 and 2019."

The U.S. has the tools to fight Uighur forced labor

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

An Australian think tank has traced the supply chains of major U.S. companies back to Chinese companies that use Uighur forced labor.

Why it matters: It's against U.S. law for companies to import products made through forced labor — but proving those links is often difficult. As more information comes to light, expect more government action to combat tainted imports.

Go deeperArrowMar 4, 2020 - World

Chinese authorities send Uighurs to work at Nike supplier

The posters on the wall alongside the Qingdao Taekwang Shoes Co. factory. Photo: Anna Fifield/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Hundreds of ethnic Uighurs have been sent to work at Qingdao Taekwang Shoes Co., a large Nike supplier and one of the American brand's biggest factories, The Washington Post reports.

Why it matters per Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian: Nike is one of the many American companies whose supply chains are closely intertwined with forced labor in Xinjiang, and it's actually against the law for U.S. companies to import goods made through forced labor.

Go deeperArrowFeb 29, 2020 - World