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Work Stoppage in the A&E Sector: Unequal Labor Practices

By LeFevre, Joel | International Musician, March 2013 | Go to article overview

Work Stoppage in the A&E Sector: Unequal Labor Practices


LeFevre, Joel, International Musician


The AFM staff and members have repeatedly expressed the opinion that the industry's national association is driving a national labor relations lockout agenda. I sought empirical data to test this hypothesis. The charts and article below support this theory.

In order to perform this analysis, I examined 10 years of data from the Federal Mediation Service Annual Reports 2002-2012, work stoppage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor, and lock-out data from the AFL-CIO Collective Bargaining Department Analysis of Work Stoppage Data 2003-2012.

Over the last 10 years there have been 260,365 union contract negotiations. Out of more than a quarter of a million negotiations there were 2,004 work stoppages and in those stoppages 101 of them were lockouts. This yields a settlement rate of 98.9% with no interruption of work. There were fewer stoppages in the last five years as the settlement rate reached 99.3%. Our economic sector is Arts and Entertainment (A&E). Of all labor contract negotiations in the US, the A&E sector accounts for 4.64% of total contract negotiations over the last three years.

The number of contract negotiations involving work stoppages has declined precipitously (see Figure 1). Coinciding with the deepening recession in 2009, we see an abrupt decline.

Ten years ago one in every 120 contract negotiations had a work stoppage on the way to settlement. By 2012, the work stoppage rate had fallen by half to one in every 240 negotiations (see Figure 2).

Since the onset of the recession, the percentage of work stoppages that are lockouts has doubled (see Figure 3).

Employer lockouts have always been with us, but are rare. Figure 4 illustrates the number of lockouts as a percent of all contract negotiations in each year. These are tiny fractions. During the first four years studied, 2003 through 2006, only one in every 1,982 contract negotiations involved an employer lockout With the recession, and then its deepening, both industry and unions sought peace at a record pace, resulting in an average of just six lockouts per year in 2007 and 2008.

In 2009 and 2010 employer aggression in the form of lockouts grew again. Lockouts are still rare and not popular. In the most recent years, the incidence of lockouts correlates to just a handful of law firms. In 2011, as the number of strikes stayed low, the lockout rate reached the level of seven years earlier. When we subtract the lockouts in the A&E sector from the total, the figures in red are the result (see Figure 5).

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