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Halted production. Angry customers. Unexpected costs.These are just a few of the challenges that companies face when unionized workers go on strike.
A 1946 strike at Hawaiian sugar plantations cost sugar producers $15 million
Protesting against racial segregation and low pay, nearly 30,000 workers at 33 different sugar plantations refused to work– starting what is now dubbed “the Great Sugar Strike,” according to Hawaiian state government.
Sugar cane dried up across the island, causing losses of roughly $15 million for the Big 5 sugar producers, according to union estimates. Company officials ultimately had to agree to higher wages and better workplace conditions to end the 79-day strike.
A 1969 strike at General Electric cost the company $79 million
In the fall of 1969, all of General Electrics unionized workers hit the picket lines in a coordinated strike that some historians call a key event in American labour history.
In order to end the strike, GE officials agreed to several wage and benefit increases demanded by the unions.
The 14-week strike had disastrous financial results for GE, which saw its earnings tank by 88 per cent in the fourth quarter of 1969, and hit the entire year’s profits with a 22 per cent drop, which GE officials blamed on the strike.
A 1990 strike of Greyhound bus drivers cost the company at least $20 million
Protesting against stagnant wages, nearly 10,000 Greyhound bus drivers, office and maintenance workers went on strike in 1990, initially stranding thousands of the bus line’s passengers across the country.
The walkout forced the company to spend $20 million on private security firms, training for thousands of replacement drivers and other ways to restore operations during the strike, according to a 1990 New York Times article. At the same time, ridership plummeted by nearly 30 per cent, ultimately driving the company into bankruptcy.
The three-year strike marked by violence against replacement drivers, ultimately ended with a new contract that included $20 million in back pay for workers. Still, the company was able to steadily recover its financial health and acquired Carolina Trailways in 1997.
A 1997 strike at UPS cost the company $650 million in a mere 15 days
Angry over the company’s increasing use of part-time employees, nearly 200,000 unionized UPS employees walked off the job in August 1997.
At the time, UPS controlled 80% of all package deliveries in the United States, so consumers and businesses across the country were affected by the strike, which essentially shut down operations for two weeks, according to a PBS report. Facing growing losses, the company agreed to increase pay and the number of full-time workers as part of the settlement.
In a mere 15 days, the strike cost the company $650 million in lost business.
A 2003 four-month strike at Southern California grocery stores cost three companies a collective $2 billion
Demanding better healthcare benefits, in October 2003 nearly 70,000 southern California workers represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW) went on strike, affecting three major grocery chains.
Vons, owned by Safeway, Ralphs, owned by Kroger, and Albertsons were all forced to replace the picketing workers, while many customers chose to shop elsewhere.
The four-month strike ultimately cost the companies an estimated $2 billion, When another strike was threatened in 2011, store officials said they learned that keeping stores open while employees picket “doesn’t make good business sense,” according to an ABC News report.
A 2008 strike at Boeing cost more than $2 billion in profits
When unionized machinists working at Boeing’s commercial aircraft assembly plants in Seattle went on strike in September 2008, it was the third time the company’s production line had been shut down by walkouts in 13 years.
“We believe this track record of repeated union work stoppages is earning us a reputation as an unreliable supplier to our customers, who ultimately provide job security by buying our aeroplanes,” CEO told the Associated Press at the time.
The eight-week strike, which delayed the company’s production significantly, ultimately cost Boeing more than $2 billion in profits, according to Wall Street estimates, the Seattle Times reported.
A 2010 five-day pilot strike cost discount Spirit Airlines $19 million
In the airline industry, it doesn’t take long for a strike to seriously hit a company’s bottom line.
In September 2010, a five-day pilot strike against discount travel company Spirit Airlines grounded the company’s fleet, leaving passengers stranded and the airline forced to issue refunds, according to a MSNBC report.
The strike cost the company $19 million, according to Air Transport World magazine. The company reported a loss of $2.8 million in the first half of 2010, which reversed a “tide of rising profits,” according to the report.
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