Grad Workers, Apple Store Workers Approve Strikes: Who’s On Strike in the U.S.?

There have been 107 labor actions so far in 2024.
Anna Helhoski
By Anna Helhoski 
Edited by Rick VanderKnyff

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Updated May 16, 2024:

  • On May 15, a union representing roughly 48,000 University of California graduate student workers authorized a strike over the way the university system’s administration has responded to pro-Palestinian protests. Police officers arrested more than 200 protesters at UCLA on May 1. Then on May 6 police officers arrested more than 60 protesters at UC San Diego. Earlier this month the United Auto Workers Local 4811 filed Unfair Labor Practices charges against the University of California.

  • On May 14, some 6,000 student workers at the University of Washington went on strike. The workers, represented by the United Auto Workers Local 4121, are bargaining for better pay.

  • On May 11, workers at an Apple store in Towson, Maryland, authorized a strike.  The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (AIM) represents the workers, who were the first-ever retail employees of Apple to unionize back in June 2022. A start date for a strike has yet to be announced.

As of May 16, there have been 107 labor actions in the U.S. in 145 locations in 2024, according to the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) Labor Action Tracker.

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.

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More strikes are expected in the days to come. Here are some of the new and ongoing major strikes happening right now in the U.S.

Boston University Workers

  • On April 12, members of the Boston University Residence Life Union, a chapter of Service Employees International Union 509, went on strike for four days over stalled contract negotiations.  

  • On March 25, members of the Boston University Graduate Workers Union went on strike after eight months of negotiations with the university. The union, which formed in 2022 and has more than 3,000 members, argues that the university has dragged its heels in negotiating the workers’ first contract.

Unite Here Local 11

Since July 2024, workers with United Here Local 11 have staged strikes at multiple hotels in Los Angeles. The union is bargaining with the Coordinated Bargaining Group for higher wages; better benefits and improved working conditions; and permanent jobs for replacement workers.

As of May 16, striking workers reached deals with 41 hotels in Los Angeles. That leaves 16 remaining area hotels with workers in contract negotiations.

Media company strikes in 2024

Workers at multiple media companies nationwide have walked off the job for one-day strikes since the start of the year. Here’s what went down:

  • On April 6, members of the NewsGuild-CWA at Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y. went on strike; they’re bargaining for higher pay and protections from both layoffs and artificial intelligence.

  • On April 5, members of the NewsGuide-CWA at the Austin American-Statesman in Austin, Texas went on strike. Workers returned to work after four days. 

  • On March 20, members of The NewsGuild of New York at Law360, owned by LexisNexis, walked off the job for 24 hours in protest of what the union alleges are illegal layoffs. The union has been in negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement since members’ contract expired on December 31, 2022.

  • On Feb. 1, roughly 230 members of The NewsGuild-CWA walked out of newsrooms owned by Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund, for one day in protest of layoffs and stalled contract negotiations. Union workers comprise seven newsrooms across the country including Allentown, Penn.; Chicago; Orlando; and Norfolk, Va. The workers want pay increases, retirement benefit protection, and a substantial effort to address racial and gender pay disparities.

  • On Jan. 25, dozens of union workers at the New York Daily News walked out in protest of staff-cutting measures by the company and stalled contract bargaining. 

  • On Jan. 25, workers at Forbes staged the first ever strike at the business publication. The strike, which lasted three days, was in protest of impassive contract bargaining.

  • On Jan. 24, workers with the San Antonio Report Union walked out in protest of the layoff of an editor. The union also filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the company. 

  • On Jan. 23, more than 400 unionized workers across 11 publications owned by Conde Nast walked out. Workers were protesting a standstill in contract bargaining.  

  • On Jan. 19, L.A. Times Guild members walked off the job in anticipation of layoffs — the paper later announced it would be gutting 20% of its staff. 

  • On Dec. 7, 2023 some 750 Washington Post staffers walked off the job to protest an impasse in bargaining with the newspaper that has left workers without a contract for 18 months.

Starbucks Workers United and Starbucks are negotiating

Starbucks and Starbucks Workers United, which represents workers in around 400 U.S. stores, resumed contract talks on April 24, overcoming an impasse that lasted for nearly a year.

The negotiations come after the company and the union agreed in February to develop a “framework” they would use in collective bargaining. At that time, Starbucks announced it would provide workers in unionized stores with benefits such as tipping that were provided to non-unionized stores in 2022.

Starbucks and Workers United have had a notoriously acrimonious relationship that has resulted in multiple labor practice complaints against the coffee chain. Baristas at unionized sites have walked off the job in several strikes — usually falling on “Red Cup Day,” the chain’s biggest sales day of the year — since it began organizing workers in 2021.

One such complaint has landed in the U.S. Supreme Court, where justices heard a case between Starbucks and the National Labor Relations Board just a day before contract negotiations were set to resume. The coffee giant is challenging an NLRB order that it must reinstate seven workers at a Memphis store who were fired while campaigning to form a union.

The court appeared to lean in favor of Starbucks during arguments on April 23, according to news reports. If justices side with Starbucks, it could make it harder for the NLRB to obtain a court injunction to force businesses to reinstate workers fired during a labor dispute.

Recent strikes in the U.S.

Housing authority workers in Marin County

Marin Housing Authority (MHA) workers in Marin County, Calif. are on strike as of March 11. The workers, represented by SEIU Local 1021, are protesting the housing authority’s practice of replacing union jobs with contracting agencies. The union argues that MHA residents are “living in unsafe, degrading conditions,” according to a press release on March 8.

Waffle House workers in Georgia

On March 26, unionized Georgia Waffle House workers went on strike in protest of the company’s nationwide policy of deducting $3 from workers’ pay each shift for meal credit. The credit is deducted even if an employee doesn’t have a meal during their shift. The Union of Southern Service Workers estimates the policy deducts $30 million from workers’ pay each year. The workers are also demanding 24/7 security and a wage increase to $25 per hour for all workers.

Warehouse workers in Sacramento, Calif.

As of March 11, warehouse workers with the Teamsters Local 150 went on strike in Sacramento, Calif. The workers are bargaining with AmerisourceBergen distribution center for “fair wage progression, lower health care costs and stronger seniority rights, according to a press release from the union.

Houston teachers strike

On April 4, members of Houston Education Association and Houston Federation of Teachers staged a one-day strike against the Houston Independent School District. The teachers called in “sick” in protest of the district’ superintendent who was appointed by the state and policies he instituted. The state prohibits any public sector employees from striking.

Nurses strike in Santa Clara

On April 2, some 3,000 unionized nurses with the Registered Nurses Professional Association went on a three-day strike after negotiations stalled with the Santa Clara Valley Healthcare System. The nurses want a pay raise and reforms to the policy of reassigning nurses to different hospitals.

Warehouse workers in Sacramento, Calif.

On March 11, warehouse workers with the Teamsters Local 150 went on strike in Sacramento, Calif. The workers bargained with Cencora (formerly AmerisourceBergen) distribution center for “fair wage progression, lower health care costs and stronger seniority rights, according to a press release from the union. On April 3, the workers ratified a three-year agreement and the strike ended

MASS MoCa UAW members

A strike by UAW union members at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCa) in North Adams, Mass. has ended. The union began its strike on March 6. The museum and its workers reached a two-year contract that includes a wage increase, additional holiday pay and overtime pay. The strike ended on March 26.

UAW in Kentucky negotiate deal with Ford

On Feb. 21, United Auto Workers Local 862 at Kentucky Truck Plant negotiated a tentative deal with Ford Motor Co. to avoid a strike. The union’s nearly 9,000 workers warned Ford that they would strike as soon as Feb. 23. The workers were demanding improvements to health and safety at the plant as part of a new contract, according to the UAW.

Bus drivers and mechanics stage two-day strike in Virginia

On Feb. 22, some 689 northern Virginia bus drivers and mechanics with ATU Local 689 began a two-day strike against Transdev, the contractor of the drivers’ employer — Fairfax Connector. Union workers’ contract expired in December and it has been locked in contract negotiations with the contractor since October.

Casino workers in Las Vegas reach deal ahead of the Super Bowl

On Feb. 4, members of Culinary Workers Union Local 226, which represents some 7,700 casino workers in Las Vegas, announced it had struck deals with all but one casino. It called off a strike that could have arrived before the Super Bowl. The union won a new five-year contract that included higher wages and more benefits, a daily housekeeping requirement, improved safety measures and job security in the face of emerging technology.

Teachers Strike Breaks Records in Boston Suburb

Teachers in Newton Public Schools, a district in a Boston suburb, went on strike for 11 school days beginning on Jan. 19. The strike included 1,900 members of the Newton Teachers Association who were locked in negotiations with the school district. The teachers bargained for increased pay, added parental leave and more social workers in schools.

Strikes by public employees are illegal in Massachusetts and the union was fined more than half a million dollars for the strike. Two lawsuits were also filed on behalf of parents who want their children back to school. The strike finally broke and students returned to school on Monday Feb. 5.

Striking worker totals increased by 141% in 2023

Strike activity has spiked over the last couple of years: Work stoppages increased 50% in 2022 compared to 2021, the IRL analysis of 2022 data shows. The uptick was smaller from 2022 to 2023 — a 9% increase — but the number of workers in work stoppages increased by 141% during that period.

The increase was mainly due to four large strikes that accounted for 65% of all workers who went on strike last year. The biggest strikes were held by SAG-AFTRA, the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, Los Angeles Unified School District workers and the UAW.

Here are some of the key findings from the 2023 Labor Action Report from ILR.

  • Work stoppage totals: There were 470 work stoppages in 2023, including 466 strikes and four lockouts. In total, approximately 539,000 workers were involved in these work stoppages. Work stoppages increased by 9% from 2022 to 2023.

  • Workers involved: The number of workers involved in work stoppages increased by 141% from 2022 to 2023. 

  • Workers' top demands: The report found workers were demanding “better pay, improved health and safety and increased staffing.” 

  • How long work stoppages lasted: Most work stoppages lasted a short period of time. 62% lasted fewer than five days.

  • How many nonunion workers organized strikes: Nonunion workers organized 22% of all strikes in 2023 compared to 31% in 2022. 

  • The industry that dominated strikes: The majority of work stoppages in 2023 were in the accommodation and food services industry — about one-third of all stoppages. But these stoppages account for only 6% 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. 

Other industries that went on strike: Work stoppages were evenly dispersed across other industries outside of food services compared to 2022. The industries with the highest number of work stoppages included information, health care and social assistance, as well as educational services.

(Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images News via Getty Images)

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