Are Strikes Becoming More Common?

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. October 22, 2019
Are Strikes Becoming More Common?

​Strikes are taking place at General Motors (GM), Chicago Public Schools and beyond. Although a tentative deal has been worked out in the GM strike—a deal that still requires union members' approval—and the Chicago strikes are unlikely to last long, the work stoppages raise the question of whether strikes are more likely to occur now.

"I think there is a trend favoring strikes right now, in part driven by the tight labor market and the leverage at bargaining generally being on the side of labor right now to press for wage increases," said Michael Ferrell, an attorney with Epstein Becker Green in Chicago. There aren't a lot of people to hire and people can go elsewhere for a better job or higher pay.

We've gathered articles from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets on the strikes.

More Strikes Are Brewing

Recently, 2,000 workers at copper mines and smelters in Arizona and Texas went on strike because their members hadn't received raises for a decade. Thousands of airline catering workers voted to strike this year, pending approval by a federal mediation board. Airline workers must receive government permission before they may strike. Nearly 500,000 workers went on strike last year, the highest number since the mid-1980s, and the duration of the strikes in 2018 reached a 15-year high.

(The New York Times)

GM Strike Has Been Costly

GM has lost more than $1 billion in earnings and workers have forfeited $835 million in wages during this year's strike, which has involved approximately 46,000 workers. The tentative deal would work out many of the main issues, such as providing temporary employees with a path to full employment. Plus, it would reduce the eight-year "grow-in" period for new workers to earn $32 an hour to approximately four years, before doing away with this period by 2023. Some still oppose the deal, which would not reopen plants in Michigan, Ohio and Maryland that the company closed last year. The strike is the longest one at GM since 1973.

(The Washington Post)

Company Downsized Last Year

On Nov. 26, 2018, GM announced it would shut plants in Detroit; Oshawa, Ontario, Canada; Warren, Ohio; Warren, Mich.; and White Marsh, Md. GM also said it would close three plants outside North America by the end of next year, including one in South Korea.

(SHRM Online)

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Preparing for the Possibility of Union Organizing]

Results on Tentative Deal Due on Friday

Early voting on the tentative GM deal indicates that some union members like it. Two locals voted yes to ratify it. However, 51 percent of members of a third local have voted no. The United Auto Workers (UAW) will release the final tally on Friday. The union will stay on strike, which is in its sixth week, while members vote. If the contract is approved by union members, workers can return to work the following day. If the tentative deal is rejected, GM and the union will restart bargaining negotiations. Under the tentative deal, GM would invest $7.7 billion in U.S. facilities, including an electric truck and van assembly plant in Detroit, creating 9,000 jobs.

(Detroit Free Press)

Strikes Feared at Other Car Manufacturers

Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are vulnerable to strikes, according to industry analysts. If the tentative GM deal is approved, the UAW is expected to use the contract as a template in negotiations with other carmakers. Under the tentative deal with GM, the UAW secured 3 percent pay increases for two years and lump-sum payments the other two years and kept workers' share of health care costs at 3 percent. "It is an expensive agreement for the companies," said Marick Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. "At the same time, it becomes clear that the UAW is not going to expect anything less than that from Ford or Chrysler. If either of the two companies would try and negotiate anything substantively different, it would invite a strike."

(Detroit Free Press)

Students Miss Class While Chicago Teachers Strike

Students in Chicago Public Schools missed a fourth day of classes Oct. 22 as a teachers' strike continued. The teachers are seeking smaller class sizes, more support staff, higher raises and more school funding. The school system has offered to raise teachers' salaries to an average of $97,757 by 2024 and provide a full-time nurse at every school by then.


Chicago School Support Staff Have Gone on Strike

In addition to Chicago teachers going on strike, school support staff have gone on strike as well. Approximately 7,500 support staff—bus aides, custodians, security officers and special education classroom assistants—have been on strike. This is the first time Service Employees International Union 73, which represents the support staff, and the Chicago Teachers Union have gone on strike at the same time.

(Chicago Sun-Times)


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