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Workers' Strikes Set a Record in the United States

  • The Writers Guild of America on strike, Sept. 2023.

    The Writers Guild of America on strike, Sept. 2023. | Photo: X/ @newrepublic

Published 7 October 2023

Workers have walked out from various industries such as automobile, healthcare, entertainment, hotel and airlines.

This year saw a record of labor activities in the United States, as the number of workers involved in strikes has reached at least 411,000, the highest since 2019.


UAW President Says Strike Is Working as It Enters 22nd Day

Workers have walked out from various industries such as automobile, healthcare, entertainment, hotel and airlines.

This year's strikes also lasted longer than those in recent history, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Cornell University's Labor Action Tracker.

Over 75,000 healthcare workers remain on the picket lines across the United States on Friday, marking the industry's biggest strike in U.S. history.

The healthcare workers' strike, which began on Wednesday, has entered its final day, but union leaders and their employer, the California-based non-profit healthcare organization Kaiser Permanente, haven't reached agreement on wages and solutions to staffing shortage.

After negotiations broke down on Wednesday, the two parties have scheduled additional sessions for Oct. 12 and 13, the unions said Friday.

Another major healthcare provider, Tenet Healthcare Corp., could be next to face a massive work stoppage, as healthcare workers at the company's 11 facilities plan to walk off the job starting Oct. 23, if no deal is reached by Oct. 19. The workers also asked for wage increases and solutions to staffing shortage.

The healthcare workers at Kaiser and Tenet are following in the footsteps of 7,000 nurses at two major hospitals in New York City, who took to the picket line early this year for similar demands.

Also on strike are over 25,000 autoworkers from the "Big Three" automakers -- Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. The workers have remained on strike since mid-September.

The United Auto Workers (UAW), which represents the striking workers, has expanded the strike twice, citing a lack of "meaningful progress." The union has been adding striking workers in the past few weeks and said the number could grow if necessary.

The Hollywood walkout this year was the second-biggest work stoppage in the past 30 years, when the dual strikes by writers and actors are combined.

In terms of the number of striking workers, it is only next to the United Parcel Service (UPS) strike in 1997, which mobilized 180,000 delivery workers who stopped working for two weeks. But the Hollywood strike lasted much longer.

Starting May 2, some 11,500 Hollywood writers went on strike for nearly five months before the Writers Guild of America (WGA) reached a deal with major studios late last month. 

The actors joined the strike in July and their union, which represents about 160,000 performers, is still in negotiations with studios and streaming companies.

Since July, about 20,000 hotel workers in southern California have walked off the job. Union leaders are calling for better wages, improved health care, higher pension contributions, better safety protections and less strenuous workloads, among other benefits.

In late September, roughly 53,000 Las Vegas hospitality workers voted to authorize a strike as they started negotiations with hotels and casinos on new contracts.

At the end of August, 26,000 American Airlines flight attendants voted to authorize a strike if the company refuses to agree to "reasonable" contract terms.

Analysts said the rise in organized labor movements is partly due to the tight labor market and inflation.The recent low unemployment rates have increased worker leverage, as many employers scrambled to compete for workers amid increasing resignations and early retirements.

Elevated inflation also has significantly eroded the buying power of salaries. Although workers' pay has increased, most Americans' income hasn't grown as much as rent and grocery costs.

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