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2023: The Year of Labor Action

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2023 can be described as the year of collective action. After decades of wage stagnation and lacking deals, Labour Unions made large strides this year after years of decline.  

Over 500,000 workers walked off their respective lines, more than double the amount that had striked in 2022. For most workers, the strikes worked. 

Autoworkers

Autoworkers of the Big Three – Ford, General Motors and Stellantis- walked off the assembly lines to the picket lines in September. 46 days of striking resulted in a 25% wage increase over the next 4 years, the return of Cost of Living adjustments, which could lead to further increases over the next 4 years. Improved benefits for retirement and pensions. Autoworkers also won the right to strike to stop plant closures. 

The UAW victory is felt across the entire auto industry with non-unionized workers at Honda, Toyota, Hyundai and Subaru all receiving increases in wages in an attempt to prevent growing unionization sentiments. However, it might be too late, as the UAW has begun the process of organizing the 150,000 workers. 

Healthcare

ER Technicians, Nurses and Pharmacists struck across the nation. In California, Kaiser Permanente workers led the largest healthcare dispute in US history. The strike lasted three days and won a wage increase of 21% over the life of the contract and more action to address understaffing.

In New York, more than 7000 nurses walked for an improved staffing ratio, reducing the load of patients on each nurse. The strike lasted three days before an agreement was reached.

Entertainment

The Writers and Actors Unions hit the picket lines in their respective strikes for over three months to ensure job security, wage increases, more jobs and transparency, gaining most of their demands.

Even in the happiest place on earth, Disney World, labour action was happening. Workers gained a three-dollar raise this year and an additional 37% raise by 2026. 

Education

Teachers across the nation struck. In Los Angeles, a short three-day strike got teachers an increase of 30% in pay raising the average salary over 8000 dollars a year. In Portland, 3700 teachers in the Portland school district struck for three weeks, with an agreement being reached, giving the teachers a 13.8% Cost of Living Adjustment over the next three years.

In Oakland, Teachers hit the line. The strike would last 7 days before an agreement was agreed upon. The workers got a wage increase of 15.5%, a back pay rise of 10% and a bonus of 5000 dollars. On top of this, workers got more preparation time, improved classroom sizes and more jobs. 

Deliverers Deliver

The workers of UPS under the Teamsters Union won big before needing to strike. Full and part-time union workers will get $2.75 more per hour in 2023. With an additional $7.50 by the end of the five-year contract. Starting hourly pay for part-time employees also got bumped up to $21.

UPS says that by the end of the new contract, the average UPS full-time driver will make about $170,000 annually in pay and benefits. Working conditions improved, ending mandatory overtime on driver days off and gaining air conditioning for all trucks.

Resident assistants joined dining hall workers and library workers at major universities. Working to organize with Boston University kicking it off, followed by Swarthmore College, Smith College, Harvard, the University of Oregon and Western Washington University. 

Government Actions

The government has taken one of the most pro-labour positions in decades. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) demanded the reinstatement of workers illegally fired for organizing. Also issuing important rulings such as the Cemex decision, which says that if an employer commits an unfair labor practice that would necessitate another union election, the employer automatically must recognize the union instead. 

Biden has pushed for the moniker of “the most pro-union president.” Earlier this year, Biden became the first president to visit a picket line. He announced in early 2023, that his re-election campaign would be unionized, another first for any president.

The year 2023 stands as a pivotal chapter in the history of labor movements across various industries in the United States. The resurgence of labour unions and support for them and the government’s pro-labor stance signals a momentous shift towards prioritizing the welfare of the workforce. The spirit of unity and activism witnessed this year lays a foundation for ongoing efforts to ensure the rights and well-being of the American workforce remain at the forefront of societal progress.

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