Workers Are Pushing for Higher Wages, But The Hot Strike Summer Won’t Last Forever – The Average Joe
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    Workers Are Pushing for Higher Wages, But The Hot Strike Summer Won’t Last Forever

    victorlei

    August 17, 2023

    Workers are striking while it’s hot. July was one of the busiest months for strikes in three decades — building on the momentum from 2022, when the number jumped 52% from the previous year, per Cornell data.

    • 340K UPS workers nearly went on strike last month before striking a last-minute deal.
    • 160K Hollywood actors and writers continue to strike — having passed 100 days.
    • 150K US autoworkers could strike as early as September — with ongoing discussions between the UAW and the three large US carmakers.

    Strikes are also rising across the UK and Canada among many industries. In 2022, there were 15 academic strikes involving tens of thousands of university workers — the highest in 20 years. And last week, 11K LA municipal employees walked out for 24 hours.

    Why now? Workers are pushing for pay increases alongside a surge in the cost of living — where until recently, inflation had been higher than wage growth. An ongoing labor shortage gives unions greater negotiating power — while strong corporate earnings provide workers more reason to hold the line.

    Per labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein — “Profits went way up, and they weren’t taking care of workers. So there’s been a delegitimization and loss of faith in big business” (WP).

    Unions have become popular again

    Since the 2009 recession, Americans’ approval of unions has steadily risen to its highest since 1965, per a 2022 Gallup survey. But over the past 50 years, the share of unionized private US companies has fallen to 6% from nearly 25%.

    • In recent years, giants including Amazon, Chipotle and Starbucks have been accused of illegal anti-union practices like firing workers or closing stores that attempt to unionize.
    • Success from the latest strikes could reinvigorate unionization efforts at Amazon and Starbucks — with Teamsters, the largest private sector union with ~1.4M members, looking to parlay its UPS win to take on Amazon.

    But per the Washington Post, experts see the window of opportunity narrowing as the labor market begins to show signs of cracking — and a recession could flip the odds against unions.

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