Let’s Talk About Labor Strikes And Workers Unions

Helen Sanders , Contributing Reporter

2021 has overseen a surge in labor strikes across the U.S. It’s a rare, yet beautiful, sight to behold. According to the Washington Post, there have been strikes against an estimated 178 different employers so far in 2021, along with a whopping 4.4 million people quitting their jobs in September alone. 

If you’re not familiar with labor unions and what they do, here are a few benefits and accomplishments of unions. Unions keep Amazon delivery truck drivers from having to urinate in bottles. It was workers unions that brought us the minimum wage, weekends, paid maternity leave, paid sick leave, unpaid sick leave, child labor laws, better working conditions, and the list goes on. 

Exploitation of labor is real, and it lives all around us. According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics , 90% of U.S workers do not have a union. One major reason for this is because the corporations they work for are union-busting. Union-busting means, well, the busting of unions. Corporations like Amazon, Stop & Shop, Target, Walmart, Starbucks, Google, and Disney have all taken action against labor unions. America is one of the only first world countries, other than South Korea, that doesn’t have guaranteed sick leave, paid or unpaid. According to an article from The New York Times, just one in sixteen private sector American workers are in a union. Even though, according to a poll conducted by an M.I.T study, 46% of workers who are not in a union said they would like to be a part of one. 

So… Why aren’t there more labor unions? If the demand for unionization is so high, how come supply is so low? Well, corporations, of course. Data from the Economic Policy Institute found that 47% of employers threatened to cut wages if employees sought to unionize. Employers will even make workers go through anti-union training, to try and prevent unionization before it starts. One of the most ridiculous examples of companies trying to prevent unionization occurred in 2019, when Delta Airlines made posters telling employees to use $700 in union dues to purchase a new video game console. 

The most recent labor strikes, that of which has been compared to the the labor movements of the 1930’s, which was one of the largest labor movements in history, are the result of longstanding mistreatment by employers and surmounting stress due to the Covid-19 pandemic on already stressed employees. Many striking workers called for safer, sanitary working environments amidst the pandemic. 

At the end of the day, one thing is certain. This labor movement is long overdue. Workers are fighting for their rights on a large scale that we have not seen in decades. This newfound movement could very well have a lasting impact on how we view labor as we know it. 

During this time where workers are desperately trying to keep up on their work while also trying to get better pay and better treatment, it’s important that we have patience with our front line workers. Behind every late delivery is a stressed employee trying to stand up against the system that oppresses them. Next time you hear about a chain fast food restaurant closing due to a lack of work, think about why this may be. Is it closing due to people’s laziness and lack of desire to work? Or is it closing due to corporations finally facing some sort of consequences for the long-standing mistreatment of their underpaid, overworked workers? After all is said and done, one thing is certain. Workers are tired, united, ready to see some change, and have nothing to lose but their chains.