A total of 178 strikes have taken place this year, as workers are demanding higher wages, better benefits and improved working conditions, according to Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has documented 12 strikes involving 1,000 or more workers so far this year, reported The Washington Post (Oct. 17), which is considerably higher than the 8 that took place in 2020.
The trend is part of what is known as the Great Resignation, which has decreased the nation’s labor pool, say union officials and economists. Workers have become harder to replace as companies scramble to meet higher demand for their products, giving unions new leverage and making strikes less risky.
Workers and labor leaders have said that union members are angry with employers for failing to raise pay to match new profits and are disappointed by the lack of high-quality jobs. Additionally, they have become frustrated that wage growth is not keeping pace with inflation.
This week alone there have been two notable union-related headlines, as noted below.
DOLLAR GENERAL WORKERS PUSH TO UNIONIZE
Currently, none of the thousands of Dollar General retail stores are unionized. However, workers in Barkhamsted, Connecticut, are pushing to change that with a union election scheduled for October 22 to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, reported The Guardian (Oct. 19).
The workers said the union organizing drive at their store was prompted by a verbal altercation in September that two district managers had with their store manager, during which employees and customers overheard screaming.
Since the union organizing drive went public, Dollar General has sent several corporate managers and union avoidance consultants to dissuade workers from voting for the union, through tactics like one-on-one meetings.
“They brought in union-busters to try to pick us off one by one. We’re not letting that happen,” an anonymous worker told The Guardian.
Five workers at the store are currently eligible to vote in the election, as a sixth employee was abruptly fired just a day before the October 9 cut off to be eligible.
HEAVEN HILL TO REPLACE STRIKING WORKERS
About 420 members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23D have been on strike for more than five weeks after they voted overwhelmingly to reject a new five-year contract offer and formed picket lines at spirits maker Heaven Hill’s operations in Bardstown, Kentucky. The dispute has revolved around health care and worker scheduling issues, reported ABC News (Oct. 18).
Declaring an impasse in contract talks with the striking union workers, Heaven Hill said it will start hiring permanent replacement workers or bottling and warehouse operations.
Union leaders responded that they are willing to continue negotiations and accused the company of wanting to replace longtime employees with non-union workers.