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Update on Sept. 27: The WGA strike is tentatively set to end after nearly 150 days. On Sept. 24, the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers reached a tentative agreement. Members still must vote to ratify the new three-year contract. But workers may now return to work. Late night talk shows will likely be the first productions to get back up and running since scripted series and films are still being impacted by the SAG-AFTRA strike. See below for more details on the WGA deal.
The story below was first published on July 13.
The so-called “hot strike summer” isn’t an anomaly contained to summer 2023 — it’s likely part of a larger trend of increasing strikes over the last couple of years: The number of workers involved in a major strike (involving at least 1,000 workers) increased by 50% in 2022 compared to 2021, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data shows.
Going on strike means workers withhold labor from their employer in order to gain leverage to bargain for things like higher compensation and benefits, more protections, as well as improved working conditions. Workers don’t have to be part of a union to strike, but unions often organize and authorize strikes, as well as represent workers in negotiations.
» MORE: What is a strike?
As of Sept. 27 there have been 291 labor actions in 462 locations across the U.S. in 2023, according to the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) Labor Action Tracker. Here are some of the major strikes happening right now in the U.S.
United Auto Workers (UAW)
Participants: 18,600, but with the potential to reach up to 150,000 if all additional plants go on strike.
Start date: Sept. 15
What’s happening: The UAW is in negotiations with the Big Three auto companies — Ford, General Motors and Stellantis (a multinational conglomerate that includes Chrysler). The union's contract expired as of 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 14, which signaled the beginning of a strike.
For now, the strikes are targeted. The strategy, dubbed by UAW President Shawn Fain, is a "stand-up strike" and it means additional plants could strike at any time.
UAW started on Sept. 15 with three assembly plants in three different states in order to simultaneously hit all three companies.
On Sept. 22, UAW expanded strikes to 38 parts-distribution centers in 20 states. The new locations are operated by GM or Stellantis. Ford was spared.
What do workers want: Elimination of payment tiers; double-digit pay raises; restoration of cost-of-living adjustments; a secure pension and increased retiree pay; right to strike over plant closures; protection for temporary workers; and more paid time off.
Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA)
Participants: 160,000 actors and entertainment professionals.
Start date: July 7.
What’s happening: SAG-AFTRA is in negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) — the bargaining group that represents major Hollywood studios and streaming services including Amazon, Apple, Disney, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, Sony and Warner Bros. Discovery.
What workers want: Wage increases, improved health care coverage, compensation for virtual auditions, and protections around their likeness and talent being exploited via artificial intelligence.
Writers Guild of America (WGA)
Participants: 11,500 writers in film, television, radio and online media.
Start date: May 2.
Tentative agreement reached: Sept 24.
What’s happening: Both WGA West and WGA East went on strike following failed negotiations with AMPTP.
What workers wanted: Higher compensation and residuals, especially for streaming content; minimum staffing and duration of work for writers’ rooms; and regulated use of artificial intelligence on projects.
What workers got: The $233 million, three-year deal includes raises in wages; increases in residual bases and minimums; bonuses to writers based on popularity and viewership for content on streaming services; minimum staffing for TV writers rooms based on TV episode length; regulations for how studios use Artificial Intelligence. Members must ratify the contract before the strike officially ends, but writers can get back to work.
Unite Here Local 11
Participants: 1,750 hotel workers.
Start date: July 20.
What’s happening: Strikes at multiple hotels in Los Angeles by members of Unite Here Local 11. The union is bargaining with the Coordinated Bargaining Group.
What do workers want: Higher wages; better benefits and improved working conditions; and permanent jobs for replacement workers.
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
Participants: 1,700 nurses.
Start date: Aug. 4.
What’s happening: Members of United Steelworkers Local 4-200 in New Brunswick, New Jersey (which represents the nurses), are striking after months of bargaining for a new contract. The nurses’ previous contract expired on June 30, then extended to July 21.
What workers want: Appropriate staffing to combat shortages; higher pay; and a solution to rising health insurance costs.
» MORE: How to survive a strike
Possible strikes to come:
Culinary and Bartenders Unions
Potential participants: 40,000 hospitality workers in Las Vegas.
What’s happening: Contracts have expired for 40,000 Las Vegas hospitality workers represented by the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165. On Sept. 26, union members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike.
What do workers want: A new five-year contract that includes wage increases; reducing workload, especially housekeeping room quotas; enhancing safety protections; strengthening existing technology protections; and extending recall rights so that workers have job security in the event of another pandemic or financial crisis.
Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions
Potential participants: More than 75,000 Kaiser Permanente health care workers in California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Georgia, Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
What’s happening: The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions is bargaining the national agreement for contracts for Kaiser Permanente health care workers in local unions across nine states. More than 75,000 of the coalition’s 85,000 members have voted to authorize strikes. The unions’ contract is expected to sunset on Sept. 30 with a strike starting as soon as Oct. 1.
What do workers want: The workers’ chief complaint is short staffing largely due to the COVID pandemic. They’re bargaining for increased pay to encourage workplace recruitment and retention; a $25 hourly minimum wage for all health care workers; fixes to “broken” hiring processes and elimination of hurdles that prevent full staffing; and more investment in the education and training for future workers.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 721
Participants: 11,000 city service workers.
What’s happening: The SEIU Local 721 is bargaining with the City of Los Angeles. The union completed a one-day strike on Aug. 8, but more strikes could be on the way as bargaining continues. The union represents sanitation workers, lifeguards, shuttle drivers and heavy-duty mechanics, traffic officers and engineers, as well as port boat captains, among others. An agreement is still in place until December, but the union is bargaining for a new contract and claims the city is not acting in good faith.
What do workers want: Increased pay, improved benefits and increased staffing.
Association of Professional Flight Attendants
Potential participants: More than 26,000 flight attendants.
What’s happening: On Aug. 30, members of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) voted yes to authorize a strike on behalf of American Airlines flight attendants. APFA National President Julie Hedrick said the union is “fired up and ready for a contract,” adding that American Airlines may “ignore this strike vote at their peril.” But don’t expect a strike soon; it takes a long time and a lot of red tape for airline unions to legally strike, and could even be blocked by the federal government. But voting to authorize a strike still puts pressure on American Airlines to negotiate.
What do workers want: Increased payment amounts and payment for boarding time; increased profit sharing; benefits like parking reimbursement and additional vacation time; and an improved retirement plan.
How many strikes happened in 2022?
Here are some of the key findings from the 2022 Labor Action Report from ILR.
There were 424 work stoppages in 2022, including 417 strikes and seven lockouts. In total, approximately 224,000 workers were involved in these work stoppages.
Work stoppages increased by 52% from 2021 to 2022.
The number of workers involved in work stoppages increased by 60% from 2021 to 2022.
Most work stoppages lasted a short period of time: 46% lasted one day or less.
Nonunion workers organized 32% of all strikes in 2022.
The majority of work stoppages in 2022 were in the accommodation and food services industry — about one-third of all stoppages. But these stoppages were composed of 7,000 workers, which accounts for only 3% of total workers involved in stoppages for the year. The majority of accommodation and food services workers were led by Starbucks Workers United — an organizing effort to unionize Starbucks locations — or the Fight for $15 campaign — an organizing effort to unionize underpaid workers and secure a $15 minimum wage.
The majority of workers, about 60%, involved in all work stoppages during 2022 were in the educational services field.
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images News via Getty Images)