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Union strikes jumped 43% last year. Here’s what we can expect in 2024

WASHINGTON D.C. — From healthcare workers to Hollywood screenwriters and actors, more workers hit the picket line last year.

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New data from the U.S. Labor Department tracked 33 major strikes last year, marking the largest number of strikes in America in more than 20 years. These numbers reflect a 43% jump in strikes compared to the year before.

The number of workers on picket lines also nearly tripled compared to 2022 as well with more than 460,000 workers walking off the job.

“The strike activity in my mind, Kirstin is a response to people having to choose between their life and their livelihood during that pandemic and deciding enough is enough,” said Mary Kay Henry, International President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Henry said union leaders are now anticipating possible strikes from more fast-food workers this year including employees of Starbucks and Waffle House.

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Another industry that may be in play this year is airline workers. Three different flight attendant unions just held rallies for better wages and benefits earlier this month.

“Unions are a way to ensure that all of us have a good standard of living,” said Henry.

Some labor experts believe these numbers also send a message to employers.

“Employers need to take proactive steps,” said Dr. Amit Arora from the School of Business he university of the district of Columbia. “Most of the corporations are they’re having record profits so it’s just fair that those profits trickle down all the levels.”

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During a congressional hearing this past fall, Mark Mix, who leads the National Right to Work Committee, told lawmakers his organization believes worker participation in union should be voluntary – not a requirement.

“We shouldn’t be imposing forced unionism on anyone here,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Committee.

Research shows most strikes are short and often last less than a week. But in some cases – like the Hollywood writers and actor strike – it can go on for months.

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Full statement from National Right to Work Committee Vice President Patrick Semmens:

“Union officials like strikes because they promote the hate-the-boss mentality that helps them maintain power over rank-and-file workers, even though actual strikes rarely result in any meaningful gains for those same rank-and-file workers, especially when lost wages while out on strike are factored in. The truth is that 9 in 10 workers are not union members, and polls show nonunion workers overwhelmingly have no interest in affiliating with a union.

“This isn’t particularly surprising given union contracts’ inflexibility combined with recent surging inflation, much of which is caused by the very policies that big labor advocates for. It is also one of the reasons we have seen a surge in union decertification petitions in recent years, where unionized workers are seeking votes to remove a union’s so-called ‘representation’ from their workplace.”

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