U.S. News


Are strikes and union activity becoming more common?

Experts explain why we are seeing Americans across many industries organize and go on strike this year.
Medical workers and supporters carry signs and march as they protest outside of a Kaiser Permanente facility Oct. 4, 2023.
Posted at 4:23 PM, Oct 06, 2023

Are strikes becoming more common?

“Strikes are contagious. Workers get courage from other workers, and strikes and organizing go in tandem,” said Kate Bronfenbrenner, the director of labor education research at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Earlier this week, 75,000 Kaiser Permanente workers from California to Washington D.C. walked off the job, making it the largest health care worker strike in U.S. history.

From the Writers Guild of America strike to the United Auto Workers union strike, employees are demanding action.

“We both have a strike wave and an organizing wave happening simultaneously after a period where the labor movement was fairly quiet during the last decade,” Bronfenbrenner said.

Kaiser Permanente health care strike enters final day with no deal
Kaiser Permanente union workers picketing.

Kaiser Permanente health care strike enters final day with no deal

Negotiations are expected to continue, but the labor union has threatened a larger strike in November if a new labor deal is not agreed upon.


@scrippsnews Noticed your news is more “strike, strike, strike” lately? Experts confirm it’s not your imagination—strikes are trending, and it’s about more than just the paycheck.💰 #strike #union #economy ♬ original sound - Scripps News

“Over time, we have had periods of more intense labor activity, I think of the late 90s,” she said.

With the most recent wave of strikes, it’s not just higher wages they are asking for.

“They are organizing around broader issues, this is not just about wages and benefits,” Bronfenbrenner said.

This includes climate impacts, among other factors. For example, earlier this year the UPS Teamsters union asked for air conditioning in trucks due to hazardous work conditions.

“Overall, workers are angry and they are ready to fight back. And I think COVID was the final straw, workers in this country put up with a lot,” she said.

She said this trend of more strikes across many industries continuing will really depend on the economy and the president.

“This could all change if we have a major economic crisis, if the job market loosens up, and of course we could get an anti-union administration. You can't underestimate how important the National Labor Relations Board has been,” Bronfenbrenner said.

UAW expands strike to 7,000 additional members at Ford, General Motors
UAW union members on strike.

UAW expands strike to 7,000 additional members at Ford, General Motors

United Auto Workers union president Shawn Fain said the latest expansion will bring the total to more than 25,000 workers on strike.