You’ve Been with the Professors: An Examination of Higher Education Work Stoppage Data, Past and Present

29 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2019 Last revised: 30 Oct 2020

See all articles by William A. Herbert

William A. Herbert

Hunter College, City University of New York

Jacob Apkarian

CUNY York College

Date Written: August 20, 2019


This article analyzes work stoppage data in calendar years 2012-2018 involving academic and non-academic employees at higher education institutions. It contextualizes the recent data through a review of the history of unionization and strikes in the field of education along with faculty strike data for the period 1966-1994. The study contributes to the literature concerning unionization and collective bargaining in higher education and will be of value to those who study or are engaged in labor relations at colleges and universities.

We find that there was a total of 42 strikes and one lock-out involving faculty, graduate assistants, and non-academic employees in higher education during the seven-year period from 2012 to 2018. The largest number of strikes per annum was in 2018, which was more than double the number in 2017. Exactly one-half of all strikes during the seven-year period were by non-academic employees, one-third of the strikes by faculty, and one-sixth by graduate assistants. The states with the greatest number of strikes were Illinois, California, and Washington.

Faculty units affiliated solely with AFT participated in 29% of all faculty strikes during the period. An additional 13% of the faculty strikes involved units co-affiliated with AAUP and AFT. AFSCME and UAW played leading roles in strikes involving staff and graduate assistants during the period with AFSCME averaging one strike per year over the period.

There was a total of 14 faculty strikes with an average of 2.0 per year in the period 2012-2018, compared to a total of 172 faculty strikes with an average of 5.9 per year during the period 1966-1994. The average duration of faculty strikes during the 2012-2018 period was 2.9 days with a median of 3 days, as compared to the average strike duration of 13.9 days and median duration of 8.5 days for the period 1966-1994. Non-tenure-track faculty were involved in 93% of all faculty strikes in 2012-2018, seven strikes with tenure-track faculty and six without.

Keywords: higher education, strikes, strike data, faculty, graduate assistants, non-academic employees, unions, labor history

Suggested Citation

Herbert, William A. and Apkarian, Jacob, You’ve Been with the Professors: An Examination of Higher Education Work Stoppage Data, Past and Present (August 20, 2019). Employee Rights and Employment Policy Journal, Vol. 23, No. 2 2019, Available at SSRN:

William A. Herbert (Contact Author)

Hunter College, City University of New York ( email )

695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10065
United States

Jacob Apkarian

CUNY York College ( email )

94-20 Guy R Brewer Blvd,
Jamaica, NY 11451
United States

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