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Thousands of US workers are on strike today. Here’s a rundown of major work stoppages happening now

by Gabriel Martinez
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Labor Strikes

Numerous labor disputes have swept across the United States in what has proven to be a pivotal year for labor organizing. These strikes have garnered widespread attention, spanning diverse sectors from auto manufacturing to Hollywood. At the heart of these protests lies a boiling frustration fueled by the skyrocketing cost of living and growing income inequality, which has starkly widened the pay gap between ordinary workers and top corporate executives.

Today, thousands of workers, who made sacrifices during the pandemic while corporate profits soared, are demanding improved compensation and safeguards. They are prepared to walk off the job if substantial progress isn’t achieved during their fervent contract negotiations.

According to Johnnie Kallas, a Ph.D. candidate and project director at Cornell University’s Labor Action Tracker, no less than 453,000 workers have taken part in 312 strikes this year alone, spanning industries ranging from transportation to entertainment and hospitality.

In the healthcare sector, a significant strike commenced this week, involving approximately 75,000 Kaiser Permanente employees across multiple states. This strike encompasses various roles, from licensed vocational nurses to home health aides and ultrasound sonographers, as well as technicians in radiology, X-ray, surgical, pharmacy, and emergency departments. The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, representing about 85,000 employees nationwide, has authorized a three-day strike in several states and a one-day strike in others.

Union members are demanding a $25 hourly minimum wage and annual pay increases of 7% for the first two years and 6.25% for the subsequent two years. They assert that understaffing has bolstered the hospital system’s profits but has had detrimental effects on patient care, with claims of bad-faith bargaining by executives. In response, Kaiser has proposed minimum hourly wages ranging from $21 to $23, depending on the location.

In the automotive industry, a substantial labor campaign has unfolded, with approximately 25,000 auto workers participating in strikes against major car manufacturers, including General Motors, Stellantis, and Ford. These targeted strikes began after the expiration of the union’s contract with the companies in mid-September and have since expanded to include multiple factories and parts warehouses. UAW President Shawn Fain has continued to expand the strikes, citing a lack of substantial progress in negotiations.

The union is advocating for a 36% increase in general wages over four years, a reduced 32-hour workweek with 40 hours of pay, the reinstatement of traditional defined-benefit pensions for new hires, and the return of cost-of-living pay raises, among other benefits. However, car manufacturers are concerned that higher labor costs could render their vehicles more expensive compared to competitors, potentially affecting their market competitiveness.

In Hollywood, writers and actors have embarked on historic strikes, disrupting the entertainment industry for months. While the writers’ strike has concluded with an approved contract agreement, actors remain on strike, currently engaged in negotiations with major studios and streaming services. Similar to the writers, actors are wrestling with issues related to pay, the use of artificial intelligence, and self-taped auditions.

Lastly, thousands of hotel workers in Southern California have engaged in rolling strikes, seeking improved wages, healthcare, pension contributions, safety measures, and reduced workloads. These workers, representing various roles within the hospitality sector, have voiced their demands through picketing and boycotts, with some progress achieved through contract agreements at select hotels.

The landscape of labor disputes in the United States reflects the pressing concerns of workers across industries, all seeking equitable treatment and better working conditions in a rapidly evolving economic environment.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Labor Strikes

What is the primary cause behind the surge in labor strikes in the U.S. in 2023?

The surge in labor strikes in the U.S. in 2023 is primarily driven by escalating living costs, rising income inequality, and growing pay disparities between workers and top executives. Workers are demanding better pay and improved protections.

How many strikes have occurred in the U.S. this year, and what industries have been affected?

In 2023, there have been 312 strikes in the U.S., involving approximately 453,000 workers. These strikes have spanned various industries, including healthcare, automotive manufacturing, entertainment, and hospitality.

What are some key demands made by the striking workers in the healthcare sector?

Healthcare workers, particularly those from Kaiser Permanente, are demanding a $25 hourly minimum wage and annual pay increases of 7% for the first two years and 6.25% for the following two years. They also express concerns about understaffing and its impact on patient care.

What are the main objectives of the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike against major car companies?

The UAW strike aims to secure a 36% increase in general wages over four years, a reduced 32-hour workweek with 40 hours of pay, reinstatement of traditional defined-benefit pensions for new hires, and a return of cost-of-living pay raises. The union is negotiating with General Motors, Stellantis, and Ford.

How has the strike in Hollywood evolved, and what are the major issues at stake?

Hollywood experienced a dual strike involving writers and actors. While the writers’ strike concluded with a contract agreement, actors are still on strike. Their key concerns include pay, the use of artificial intelligence, and self-taped auditions. Negotiations are ongoing with major studios and streaming services.

What are the key demands of hotel workers in Southern California who are participating in rolling strikes?

Southern California hotel workers are demanding better wages, improved healthcare, higher pension contributions, enhanced safety protections, and reduced workloads. They have engaged in picketing and boycotts to raise awareness of their demands, with some hotels reaching tentative contract agreements.

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