Since final yr’s Labor Day, US unions have flexed their muscle in a approach not seen in many years. They’ve scored some massive victories amid some defeats.
“It’s been an excellent yr for unions,” mentioned Artwork Wheaton, director of labor research at Cornell College’s Industrial and Labor Relations college in Buffalo, New York. “You’ve seen loads of successes and that can assist going ahead. I give them a B+. Not an A.”
The Teamsters union used the threat of a strike by 340,000 members at UPS to attain most of its bargaining objectives, together with considerably improved wages for part-timers who make up many of the Teamster membership on the firm. And hundreds of UPS staff employed since 2018 to let UPS transfer to 6-day every week supply had been receiving a decrease tier of wages, and that decrease pay tier was eradicated. Memberships voted overwhelmingly to approve the deal.
Whereas the Teamsters prevented a walkout, the US labor motion has proven a rise within the variety of main strikes. A strike tracker database from Cornell College exhibits that from September 1 of final yr by way of August 31 of this yr, unions initiated 70 strikes, with 100 or extra staff collaborating for greater than every week.
That’s far multiple vital strike every week, and it’s up 40% from the identical interval a yr earlier.
In the meantime, different smaller strikes embrace one-day strikes at Starbucks places that voted to unionize however haven’t but reached an preliminary contract. When together with these smaller strikes, the overall variety of strikes up to now yr elevated to almost 400.
Unions used strikes to win a lot of their bargaining objectives over the past yr, from non-teaching college staff in Los Angeles to nurses in New York Metropolis. However not all these strikes resulted in success.
Almost 1,000 coal miners in Alabama returned to work at Warrior Met Coal in March after being on strike almost two years, one of many longest US strikes lately. The United Mine Employees union by no means reached a deal on a brand new contract.
Nonetheless, the unions have been having fun with success, helped by a near-decades low in unemployment and by employers posting extra job openings than there are unemployed job seekers. That provides staff some leverage to demand extra of what they need, whether or not it’s higher pay and advantages or just a greater work-life steadiness.
Most of the well being care staff unions say their essential problem is lack of enough staffing and the employees’ perception that they’re not capable of present the extent of care they need with out extra assist.
The Biden administration and Congress stepped right into a labor dispute late final yr when freight railroad staff threatened to strike. Congress and Biden needed to stop harm to the US financial system if the 4 main freight railroads shut down. However they took heat from the unions by voting to impose a contract that didn’t embrace sick days.
Greater than 100,000 freight railroad staff obtained instant 14% raises, again pay and raises totaling 24% over the five-year lifetime of the contract. However most voted against the deals, complaining about high quality of life points, notably the dearth of sick days. Many noticed the result as a defeat for the rail unions.
However since that congressionally mandated contract took impact, the railroads reached separate agreements with the rail unions that gave most of these rail staff the sick days they sought.
Many unions’ members are struggling as they flex their muscle, most notably the roughly 160,000 actors who belong to SAG-AFTRA who’ve been on strike in opposition to main studios and streaming providers since mid-July. One other 11,000 members of the Writers Guild have additionally been on strike in opposition to the identical employers since early Could.
Observers see little finish in sight for both of these strikes. Whereas the unions halted manufacturing of exhibits and films, the media and tech corporations that will have paid for these productions are literally saving cash from the dearth of filming, which bolsters their current cost-cutting efforts.
Typically, the general public has sided with the union members in these disputes. A ballot by Gallup launched on the finish of August confirmed Individuals sympathize extra with the tv and movie writers than with the tv and movie manufacturing studios, with 72% supporting the writers and 67% supporting the actors.
The general public additionally sees unions having extra energy than up to now, and so they approve of that, according to the poll. A record-high 61% consider unions assist somewhat than harm the US financial system, topping the prior document set in a 1999 survey by six factors. And the quantity of people that need unions to achieve extra energy has risen steadily to 43% right this moment, up from a document low optimistic response of solely 25% to that query in a 2009 survey following the Nice Recession.
“Labor unions are having fun with a second of excessive public approval and robust perception in the advantages they provide to staff, companies and the financial system,” mentioned an announcement from Gallup’s launch. “At this time’s putting staff might have a stronger hand of their negotiations than they’d have had up to now given right this moment’s elevated public assist for unions.”
That may increase the general public relations dangers for employers going through a strike.
Quite a lot of main labor disputes are nonetheless looming.
Most notably, the United Auto Employees union is threatening a strike or strikes by as many as 145,000 members in opposition to a number of of the three main unionized US automakers — Common Motors; Ford; and Stellantis, which makes automobiles beneath the Jeep, Ram, Dodge and Chrysler manufacturers.
The union which, in response to the Gallup ballot, has the assist of 75% of Individuals surveyed, laid out an bold set of objectives on the bargaining desk. Their calls for embrace raises of 40% or extra through the lifetime of the contract, restoring the cost-of-living changes in pay to guard members from rising costs, and recapturing concessions made to the automakers earlier within the century when a number of automakers confronted monetary hurdles and as GM and Chrysler headed for chapter and federal bailout.
To date, the 2 sides don’t seem near reaching offers with a strike deadline set for 11:59pm on September 14.
Quickly after that deadline, unions representing 85,000 well being care staff, together with nurses and different assist employees, at Kaiser Permanente amenities in seven states nationwide are attributable to conclude their very own strike authorization vote. A strike may begin for these staff as quickly as October 1.