The number of strikes are increasing for US workers

Labor has had the upper hand during the pandemic, but how long will that last?
The number of strikes are increasing for US workers
Image: Erwin Seba (Reuters)
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The pandemic pushed forth a labor resurgence.

In October 2021, a wave of workers around the globe, from Kellogg’s workers to South African metalworkers, went on strike, garnering the name “Striketober.” The movement arose during a time of employees working in overdrive—including Nestle workers putting in 13-hour shifts on production lines—to meet pent-up demand for products and services after covid-19 lockdowns. The strikes were also driven in part due to safety reasons as workers toiled away during a public health crisis.

A year later, that nickname looks apt for this October too, as rail workers in the UK, pilots in Germany, and Sysco drivers and Amazon workers in the US plan walkouts. In 2022 so far, more US workers went on strike than in all of 2021, according to a labor tracker from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Labor’s power may be shifting

Throughout the the pandemic, workers have had the upper hand. Employers, particularly those in the service industry, continue to have a hard time finding workers, so they’re raising wages and providing more benefits.

But this year is looking different. With the US Federal Reserve raising interest rates, the Fed projects unemployment to rise to 4.4% next year, up from 3.7% in September. Legislation could though help strengthen unions. The House-passed PRO Act, which would make it harder for employers to retaliate against striking workers, has yet to be taken up by the Senate. The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act will also help create new jobs in clean energy, which could boost union membership.