The United Auto Workers strike is not happening in a vacuum. It’s part of a growing movement of American workers walking off the job.
From Hollywood writers and nurses to factory workers and Starbucks baristas, thousands of workers have gone on strike in recent months to demand higher wages and better benefits and working conditions. The Teamsters union recently used the threat of a strike by UPS’s 340,000 members to secure most of its demands, including wage increases and new air-conditioned vans.
Workers have become more aggressive due to decades of stagnant wages for low- and middle-income workers, while the richest Americans have increased their wealth to unprecedented levels. Corporate profits have soared since the pandemic, and workers want a bigger share of the profits.
“There’s a generational shift happening in the labor movement and its thinking,” said Joseph McCartin, a labor historian at Georgetown University.
Between 1979 and 2022, the inflation-adjusted annual wages of the richest 1% of workers increased by 145%, while the average annual wages of the poorest 90% increased by only 16%, or about a tenth faster, according to Economic Policy. Institute. Several factors have contributed to these trends, including deregulation, the decline of unions, and little change in the federal minimum wage.
Auto workers, for example, are targeting CEO pay at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis – which has increased by more than 40% over the past four years – to make their case for higher wages. workers’ wages.
Workers also believe they have greater bargaining power because of a tight labor market and the strongest public support for unions in decades.
“We live in a strong labor market and economy, and workers and unions feel more influential when economic forces blow in the direction they are headed,” McCartin said.
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