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Unions and strikes hit record numbers during 2023, why?

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2023 was a historic year for the average worker as it seemed that every month workers for an essential service were on strike or threatening to strike. Some of these industries include but are not limited to shipping, healthcare, automobile manufacturing, writing, railroads, airlines, and gambling. 

Each of these strikes has either ended with unions reaching a tentative agreement for workers or has a very positive outlook as they rage on with the writers’ strike, for example, continuing to meet with studio executives.  

In 2023 alone, there were roughly 312 worker strikes nationwide as opposed to the two years before, which had only 180 worker strikes combined. Altogether there have been over 450,000 workers who have gone on strike this year, over double the number who did so in 2022. 

Many strikes have spanned entire national industries causing an unprecedented halt in corporate earnings. 

But why the sudden rise? A rise in union strikes would have been expected during 2020 or 2021 after the effects of COVID-19 on many industries but 2023 seems like a very arbitrary year.  

The basic overarching theme of most of these strikes has been a demand for an increase in wages. America is fresh off the heels of the 2020 recession, one of the greatest we’ve ever seen, and as inflation continues to rise, wages have not gone up accordingly to combat that. 

The average worker is still on the same salary that they were three years ago except now they have much less purchasing power due to the effects of inflation. 

The average cost of living has also gone up greatly, with a 5.9% increase from the beginning of 2020 to 2023. As a result, more and more people are turning to unions to make sure they are receiving fair wages as the cost of living in America becomes ever more expensive.  

Pay is the largest issue facing workers but, of course, it is not the only issue. Problems with healthcare, retirement benefits, and shortened staffing are also very apparent difficulties, especially with the rise of AI and machine work. With the lack of these benefits, workers are faced with no better option than to look to unions. 

If this past year has been evident of anything, it’s the continued efficacy of unions. During the first half of 2023, eighteen out of nineteen major national strikes ended with the union forcing corporations to meet their workers’ demands.

The Biden Administration has also made a great impact on the power of unions, with the White House releasing the “US Department of the Treasury’s Labor Unions and the Middle-Class Report” stating that they were in favor of labor unions. In the report, they said that unions help grow the economy by raising income, increasing savings, and reducing overall inequality. 

On top of that, the Department of Labor created the Worker Organization Resource and Knowledge Center, an online resource center providing information on unions and how to form one in your place of work. 

America has always been a nation built on workers and it is time that we start considering them more. If this trend of unionization and striking continues, America may become a haven for the average working-class person. 

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Charlie Richards, Staff Writer
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