Kentucky Auto Workers Reach Deal, Virginia Bus Drivers Strike: Who’s On Strike in the U.S.?

More major 2024 strikes expected soon, after 2023 strikes included auto workers, and Hollywood actors and writers.
Anna Helhoski
By Anna Helhoski 
Edited by Rick VanderKnyff

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Updates as of Feb. 23:

  • 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. 

  • 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. 

  • In other news, a new report from the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations found the number of workers involved in strikes during 2023 was an increase of 141% from 2022. More on the report below. 

As of Feb. 23, there have been 33 labor actions in the U.S. in 60 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.

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 accounts 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.

Ongoing strikes

Unite Here Local 11

Participants: 15,000 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.

Strike update: As of Feb. 23, striking workers reached deals with 34 hotels in Los Angeles. That leaves 28 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 Feb. 1, 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.  

Other short-lived strikes

SEIU United Healthcare Workers West — Prime Healthcare

Participants: 1,800 health care workers.

Start date: Dec. 20

End date: Dec. 26

What’s happening: Workers at four Prime Healthcare facilities in Southern California launched a seven-day strike on Dec. 20. The workers include emergency room technicians, licensed vocational nurses, certified nursing assistants, radiology technicians, medical assistants, respiratory technicians and more. The strike ended on Dec. 27. The facilities include:

  • Prime St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood

  • Prime Centinela Medical Center in Inglewood

  • Prime Encino Medical Center in Encino

  • Prime Garden Grove Hospital Medical Center in Garden Grove

The strike is the second strike at Prime Healthcare facilities in Southern California. In October, members of SEIU United Healthcare Workers West went on a five-day strike.

What workers want: Higher wages, improved health care plan and better benefits. They also want the facilities' to address understaffing, worker turnover and patient care concerns.

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.

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 5-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.

Possible strikes to come:

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.

Strikes that ended in 2023

Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA)

Participants: 160,000 actors and entertainment professionals.

Start date: July 7.

Tentative end date: Nov. 8.

Official end date: Dec. 5

What happened: SAG-AFTRA went on strike to negotiate a new contract 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 wanted: Wage increases, improved health care coverage, compensation for virtual auditions, and protections around their likeness and talent being exploited via artificial intelligence.

What workers got: Higher wages for workers  including background actors, stand-ins and photo doubles; requirements to obtain explicit and clear consent from performers to create and use their digital likeness; actors must be compensated during the time spent to make their digital likeness and, when the digital likeness is used, actors must be paid their daily rate; streaming bonuses for streaming series and films that reach high viewer counts; increased residuals; and elimination of fees during casting calls.

United Auto Workers (UAW)

Potential participants: Up to 150,000 if all plants go on strike.

Start date: Sept. 15

End date: Nov. 20

What happened: The UAW has a tentative deal 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.

What workers wanted: 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.

Strike updates: After six weeks, the United Auto Workers reached tentative agreements with all of the Big Three auto manufacturers — Ford Motor Co., Stellantis and General Motors. Members at all three automakers voted to ratify the contracts on Nov. 20.

The UAW posted on X (formerly Twitter) "This contract is about more than just economic gains for autoworkers. It’s a turning point in the class war that has been raging in this country for the past forty years. For too long it’s been one-sided and working class people have been losing."

The Big Three deals include numerous concessions on wages and other key issues including an historic 25% raise in base wages over four-and-a-half years.

Here's what led up to the deals:

  • 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.

  • On Oct. 11: 8,700 UAW members at Kentucky Truck Plant were instructed by UAW President Shawn Fain to strike after bargaining negotiations with Ford failed..

  • On Oct. 6, General Motors agreed, in writing, to bring its electric battery manufacturing under the UAW's National Master Agreement — the union's labor contract. The agreement averted what would have been an additional strike at one of GM's biggest auto factories.

  • On Oct. 23, some 6,800 UAW workers at Stellantis's largest plant, Sterling Heights Assembly joined the strike.

  • On Oct. 24, some 5,000 UAW workers went on strike at GM's largest plant, located in Arlington, Texas.

  • On Oct. 25, the UAW and Ford announced a tentative agreement, sending about 20,000 striking workers back to their jobs.

  • On Oct. 28, the UAW and Stellantis announced a tentative agreement. Some 14,600 workers went back to their jobs.

  • On Oct. 30, the UAW and GM announced a tentative agreement.

  • UAW members of each of the Big Three ratified their contracts on Nov. 20.

United Auto Workers (UAW) — Mack Trucks

Participants: 4,000 UAW members at Mack Trucks factories in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Florida.

What happened: After months of contract negotiations, truck manufacturing workers rejected a proposed five-year contract by Mack Trucks, which is owned by Volvo. The strike began on Oct.9 and officially ended on Nov. 16.

What workers wanted: Wage increases; cost-of-living allowances (COLA); job security; 401(k)s and pensions; healthcare and prescription drug coverage; overtime and more.

What workers got: Neither the UAW or Mack Trucks released details of the contract.

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Participants: 1,700 nurses.

Start date: Aug. 4.

End date: Dec. 15

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 wanted: Appropriate staffing to combat shortages; higher pay; and a solution to rising health insurance costs.

What workers got: A new three-year contract that includes new staffing guidelines that will result in 70 more nurses in full- and part-time positions.

Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions

Participants: More than 75,000 Kaiser Permanente health care workers in California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Georgia, Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Strike start date: A three-day strike beginning on Oct. 4.

What’s happened: The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions bargained a 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 began a three-day strike on Oct. 4. The workers' contracts expired on Sept. 30.

Strike end date: Kaiser Permanente Unions reached a tentative agreement on Oct. 13 following the largest-ever health care strike. The national contract was ratified on Nov. 9.

What workers wanted: The workers’ chief complaint was short staffing largely due to the COVID pandemic. They were bargained 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.

What workers got: The deal includes wage increases: a starting minimum hourly wage of $25 in California and $23 in all other states. Workers are also set to receive a 21% wage increase over four years. Kaiser Permanente also agreed to address the staffing crisis through more training, education and hiring.

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.

End date: Oct. 9

What happened: 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 with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers 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. Late night talk shows were the first productions to get back up and running since scripted series and films are still being impacted by the SAG-AFTRA strike.

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images News via Getty Images)

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