There have been several publicly known and documented strikes in the country as of late.  There are strikes happening in all types of work including a writers strike, UPS strike, United Auto Workers Union (UAW) strike, Amazon drivers strike and even a Starbucks strike that happened in June. There is a nurse strike happening in New Jersey, which has been going on for several days now.

This summer has been full of workers standing up for themselves and risking their jobs to do so. Everyone is entitled to peacefully strike for better working conditions, pay, benefits or whatever it may be but that does not mean that the employer has to tolerate it. Many times when employees go on strike the employers quickly work to replace those workers. The employees on strike are aware of the consequences but still do it because they know that there needs to be change and continuing to work in the same conditions won’t help.

Why are there so many strikes happening now?

Workers have the right to a lawful strike according to the National Labor Relations Act of 1935. A lawful strike is workers who are protesting against unfair labor practices or economic conditions in the workplace. More than 200 strikes have occurred across the country in 2023. These strikes involved more than 300,000 workers, a number much larger than previous years. 

There are several factors that contributed to the strikes happening across the country. Stepan Norris, a sociology professor at the University of Carolina Irvine stated that the COVID19 pandemic is a huge factor. The pandemic made people lose their jobs but also had some employers hiring at a higher rate due to the high turnaround rate in the workplace. Also, in the current state of the economy everything is expensive and a livable wage is hard to come by.

Furthermore, there has been a history of successful strikes as of late, this could have inspired the employees to begin a strike of their own. Several of the strikes are beginning to get traction, and the appropriate parties are beginning to get involved.

Who is on strike?

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) represents 11,500 screenwriters, who all went on strike over a labor dispute with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. This strike has caused hundreds of TV shows and films to pause production. WGA teamed up with other writer unions and they are working together to ensure that no stone goes unturned. Some of the problems the WGA had was the residual income from streaming media, a lot of the writers worked on shows and movies that are exclusively meant for streaming but they are not seeing as much revenue compared to when it would be on TV or the big screen. 

The first ever Amazon Delivery Driver Strike was started in California. Due to the extreme heat and unsafe working conditions drivers have now unionized. Since June 24th the workers have been on an indefinite strike. Amazon requires 400 stops per day, with extremely hot summer days, and no cooling system in the rear of the truck (where all the packages are) . Several workers said it feels like an oven when you step back there, and you feel woozy. Amazon has yet to respond to the terms the drivers are asking for and has not taken any responsibility for the working conditions. 

340,000 UPS workers have put the billion dollar company on the hot seat. This is the biggest strike the United States has seen in about 60 years. The major issue is pay particularly for part time workers who make up more than half of the company’s workforce. Unlike Amazon, UPS has acknowledged the request from their employees and have stated that they are prepared to increase their pay and benefits, they just have to ensure it is a fair deal for the customers, employees and businesses across the country. 

The United Auto Workers union represents 150,000 employees of companies that manufacture U.S- made vehicles. They are targeting the big three manufacturers in the country which are Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. The Union wants to see these companies pay their employees fairly and equally. The companies have acknowledged the strike and are open to a “fair agreement” although no specific terms have been publicized as of yet.

NJ Nurse Strike

Over 1400 nurses in New Jersey have gone on strike. Nurses at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick are outraged that after three months of negotiations, no new contract has been produced. This new contract would address issues that included wages, retirement benefits, and capping health care costs. 

In an effort to get some help at the hospital due to the strike, two associate deans at Rutgers University medical school affiliated with the hospitals sent out an email to students asking them to volunteer at the hospital during the strike. More than 300 students respectively declined the request and signed a petition in response saying that “respecting the rights of the striking nurses and their demands is essential to supporting the fight for fair working conditions”

RWJ has paid more than $17 million towards an staffing agency that provides nurses to help them during the strike. The nurses who are on strike have stated that they see buses dropping off these nurses at the start of their shifts. This response by RWJ has not helped the situation, the nurses are prepared to continue striking and RWJ does not seem to be budging. This will ultimately not only affect the business aspect of the hospital but also more importantly have a negative overall effect on the patients who depend on these nurses.

What’s next?

The strikes happening all over the country are a representation on how to effectively advocate. The unions are teaming up together for a similar cause, they are getting attention and people are being forced to do something about it.  There have been many victories for workers who went on strike, but there has also been a lot of sacrifice. 

Many of the employees going on strike are at risk of losing their jobs, their benefits, their pensions because they are standing up for what they believe in. They know the risk and they do it anyway. Although the situations the workers are facing are cruel and unfortunate, young advocates will learn from these strikes and hopefully stand up for what they believe in as well.


About The Author: Felipe Peralta is the Executive Director of the Lesniak Institute.