Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer, but the summer’s big strikes are not ending. Hollywood writers and actors remain on strike since May and July, respectively, and Los Angeles hotel workers have held rolling strikes through the summer, with another kicking off as the American Political Science Association’s annual meeting arrives in town over the objections of many of its members.
Last week, late-night TV hosts Jimmy Kimmel, John Oliver, Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Fallon announced a podcast to support their staff during the writers’ strike. Also last week, Adam Driver—currently promoting a movie that has an interim agreement with the unions—called out big studios for refusing to make a fair deal. “Why is it that a smaller distribution company like Neon and STX International (distributors for ‘Ferrari’) can meet the dream demands of what SAG is asking for – this is pre-negotiations – the dream version of SAG’s wishlist, but a big company like Netflix and Amazon can’t,” Driver asked at the Venice Film Festival.
Driver’s question was presumably rhetorical, but just in case you need an answer, it’s that some companies are greedier than others, and Netflix and Amazon and the rest of the AMPTP studios are determined to break these strikes to keep more profits in the hands of the super-wealthy rather than paying writers and actors fairly.
More big strikes could be on the horizon. UAW members, under the leadership of a new president elected on a reform platform, have overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike if negotiations with major auto companies don’t yield a deal. The union is particularly trying to end tiered employment, which leaves some workers making much less than others doing the same jobs.
Food workers at LAX have also voted to authorize a strike.
Earlier in the summer, UPS workers voted to authorize a strike—but instead, they won a deal that met several of their most critical asks, including an end to two-tier employment of the type the auto workers are now targeting.
Every single one of these strikes represents working people building power to demand better from the powerful corporations that employ them. Unions remain the single best way for working people to get better treatment and pay and to fight inequality.
“[U]nions fuel equality,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said last week, drawing on new Treasury Department research. “Today’s unions benefit all demographic groups. Unions reduce race and gender wage gaps by encouraging explicit anti-discrimination measures and egalitarian wage practices.”
The Economic Policy Institute offers details on the reduction of race and gender wage gaps: “Black workers—both men and women—are more likely than white workers to be union members, and the wage boost they get from being covered by collective bargaining is 14.6%, above the 13.5% average wage boost for unionized workers overall.” Their report continued, “Hourly wages for women represented by unions are 9.5% higher on average than for nonunionized women with comparable characteristics.”
Yellen also noted that union power doesn’t just benefit union members. “Unionization also has spillover effects,” she said. “Competition means workers at nonunionized firms may see increased wages too. Heightened workplace safety norms can pull up whole industries. Benefits also spill over to workers’ families and communities.”
This Labor Day, the workers on strike or who’ve authorized strikes are fighting for all workers.