Hot Strike Summer Is Heating Up

July 31, 2023

The summer of 2023 has featured searing temperatures, freakishly warm oceans…and lots of workers either on the picket line or threatening to join one. Labor experts are calling it “Hot Strike Summer.”

UPS recently avoided a strike which would’ve had devastating consequences on businesses of all kinds. Their demands included a pay raise for workers – including part-timers – and one of the most talked-about needs: A/C in those big brown trucks. Considering how hot it’s been, that seems like a necessity.

Three thousand Starbucks baristas went on strike for a week over unfair labor practices. Electrical workers recently sat things out at plants in Erie, PA and Wichita. In June, hundreds of media professionals walked off their jobs at Gannett, and there are rumblings that members of the United Auto Workers may strike.

Not to mention the highest-profile strike of the summer: actors and writers are currently walking the picket lines in Hollywood. This particular event has shed some light on the realities of the entertainment industry. For example, a member of SAG-AFTRA must make $26K a year in acting work to qualify for their health insurance. There are 160,000 members of SAG, and clearly, most of them are not big stars like Brad Pitt or Meryl Streep.

Their other disputes lie in the way AI is changing the industry (as it is with so many). Actors, writers, and associated entertainment professionals want some protection (and compensation) as artificial intelligence reshapes their business. Streaming profits and residuals from past work are another sticking point, since the people who actually make the product don’t see much of the payoff in their bank accounts.

Meanwhile, members of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTM) seem to be reaping most of the benefits generated from SAG-AFTRA/WGA’s creative work. For example, Disney CEO Bob Iger is worth around $350 million. Combine that with other high rollers in the organization and let’s face it: they could afford to spread it around a little more.

So, what lit the match on this Hot Strike Summer? Experts trace it to the pandemic when low-paid workers like grocery clerks, delivery drivers, warehouse workers, and more were suddenly seen as “essential.” That epiphany made these folks realize they had leverage and could demand better for their labor, in both pay and working conditions.

Couple that with statistics showing the ever-widening gap between CEO compensation and that of the average worker. CEO pay has jumped an astonishing 1460 percent since 1978. In the 60s, CEOs earned 20 times that of their lowest employee; in 2021, it was 399 times that.

Now throw in the rapidly changing technology that threatens a host of different jobs, and you have a recipe for workers demanding their fair share.

Strikes can be disruptive, that’s for sure. But then again, that’s the point. No matter what union we’re talking about, at bottom, fairness is the issue.

What are your thoughts on the various strikes? Have you ever participated in one? Are you concerned about changing technology impacting your job or business? Sound off in the Community Soapbox!

Cindy Grogan is a writer, lover of history and "Star Trek" (TOS), and hardcore politics junkie. There was that one time she campaigned for Gerald Ford (yikes), but ever since, she's been devoted to Democratic and progressive policies.

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