In the first seven months of this year, 325,000 American workers went on strike—marking a landmark moment for labor disputes this decade.
- Cornell-ILR Labor Action Tracker project director Johnnie Kallas tells Fast Company that this year has already become historic for labor action.
- Between January 1 and July 31, 214 strikes occurred, an increase from 130 strikes in 2021 with 28,000 total workers.
- These numbers reflect multiple ongoing trends, with mass strikes for Starbucks, Amazon, school custodians, hotel employees, booksellers, brewery workers, and bus drivers.
- The largest contributor is the historic Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) strikes that have ground Hollywood to a halt.
Why It’s Important
As Kallas tells Fast Company, the post-COVID economy has changed everything dramatically and in ways that do not always benefit workers and union members. New technologies are emerging that could threaten jobs while wages stagnate and safety protocols gradually diminish over time. He says union members want to know when things will improve.
This is best reflected in the massive WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, which mark the first time both Hollywood guilds have gone on strike since 1960. More than 11,000 writers and 160,000 actors have been continually striking against the proliferation of artificial intelligence technologies in the film industry and for improved residuals, which they claim have been greatly diminished by the rise of streaming content.
Kallas notes that many union workers have not negotiated contracts since the pandemic began, leaving many industries feeling heavily impacted by wage stagnations and harsh economic conditions. They are fighting now for additional workplace protections and improvements.
“It says a lot about the moment we’re in. A lot of industries were impacted by the pandemic; every worker was impacted by inflation that really eroded paychecks,” he says. “I think that’s why you’re seeing this level of activism and unrest. There’s not really going to be the same status quo contract negotiations that maybe you saw in the past. I think workers are much more in a fighting spirit, and you’re seeing it reflected both in the strikes and the strike threats.”
Every industry does not widely welcome the agitation. As Reuters notes, the newly announced bankruptcy of Yellow Corporation, a transportation company, was due in part to repeated agitation from teamsters. The company blames the unions for opposing restructuring plans that would have saved the century-old company. Teamsters President Sean O’Brien responded saying, “They shamelessly pin their corporate incompetence on working people.”