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At a baby shower over the weekend, a group of friends described their current work lives and added an unusual twist: many of their film & television jobs would be on hiatus as their various unions prepared to strike. One expressed solidarity, another incredulity over her poor luck of starting a job and immediately stopping, and another was just glad she worked in post-production, where the hours were sane and the work was steady (the strike was averted as of Tuesday). It's not only the working conditions at "new media" properties like Netflix. Workers across the country are using this moment of low unemployment and pro-union sentiment to demand higher wages and better job conditions.
The U.S. government only tracks strikes involving 1,0000 or more workers, of which there have been 11 so far this year (Volvo Trucks and Nabisco, to name two). But researchers at Cornell University have put together a comprehensive catalog of current and former labor strikes happening across the country. In NYC, strikers are making demands concerning health & safety, unjust discipline, healthcare & retirement benefits, racial justice, and of course, pay at places like Chipotle, NYU, the MTA, and more. Fleishers Craft Butchery workers staged a walkout in late July when their billionaire lead investor asked the CEO to remove Black Lives Matter and LGBTQIA+ signage from store windows. Following the walkout, 20 of the 40 person workforce chose to resign, including the H.R. person, leading to difficulty maintaining store hours in the following weeks.
In the Bay Area, gig workers from Instacart staged a walkout for better wages and working conditions. The Gig Workers Collective, which represents Instacart's shoppers, says it has been pushing back on the narrative around the company's plans to go public, claiming exploitative business practices. This walkout was the 3rd protest from the workers since January 2020. It is yet to be seen if the worker unions will affect policy beyond the labor union's bargaining power, similar to what took place in NYC recently for food delivery app workers.
The sheer span of industries and demographics involved in strikes points to significant unrest as worker wages have stalled and CEO salaries have skyrocketed. Amazon employees in Alabama forewent the opportunity for union representation after a much-covered union campaign in the spring, but the company's conduct during the organizing campaign remains contested. California's proposed legislation will force Amazon to expose its productivity quotas, signaling interest in policymakers to step in when labor unions cannot do so.
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