US workers are engaging in strike action at the highest rate in almost 25 years, with over 4.1 million workdays lost to strikes and lockouts in August. This is the highest monthly total since 1997 and far exceeds the average monthly total since 2000, which has not surpassed 2 million workdays lost. The recent Hollywood writers and actors strike has contributed to this peak in lost workdays, but strikes have also been occurring in the transportation sector, the service industry, and education.
The increase in labor action can be attributed to the growing frustration among workers due to decades of stagnant wages and the rising cost of living. Unions are seeking higher pay, improved benefits, and better working conditions as they witness their companies making record profits and executive salaries rising. While some labor action has achieved success, such as UPS workers securing a five-year contract with pay increases and safety protections, the Hollywood writers strike continues as they fight against industry changes brought about by the streaming revolution and the encroachment of AI on their jobs.
The trend of increased union action is expected to continue, as evidenced by the recent major strike announced by the United Auto Workers (UAW) against the Detroit 3 automakers. The UAW, representing approximately 150,000 autoworkers, is demanding significant pay increases, cost of living adjustments, a shorter workweek, and the return of pensions. Experts estimate that this historic labor stoppage could cost the automakers up to $5 billion within just 10 days, with expectations that the strike will last even longer.
While strikes may cause disruption and delays to services, public support for labor unions has been on the rise. In August, a Gallup poll showed that 67% of Americans approved of labor unions, up from 54% in 2013. This marks the highest level of public approval since 1965. The combination of increased labor action and growing public support suggests a changing landscape for labor relations in the US.