Strikes Are Sweeping the Labor Market as Workers Wield New Leverage

Marcial Reyes could have just quit his job. Frustrated with chronic understaffing at the Kaiser Permanente hospital where he works in Southern California, he knows he has options in a region desperate for nurses.

Instead, he voted to go on strike.

While Americans are leaving their jobs at staggering rates — a record 4.3 million quit in August alone — hundreds of thousands of workers with similar grievances about wages, benefits and quality of life are, like Reyes, choosing to dig in and fight. Last week, 10,000 John Deere workers went on strike, while unions representing 31,000 Kaiser employees authorized walkouts. Some 60,000 Hollywood production workers reached a deal Saturday night, averting a strike hours before a negotiation deadline.

All told, there have been strikes against 178 employers this year, according to a tracker by Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which records only large work stoppages, has documented 12 strikes involving 1,000 or more workers so far this year. That’s considerably higher than 2020, when the pandemic took hold, but in line with significant strike activity recorded in 2019 and 2018.

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