For the second year in a row, the month of “Striketober” looks like a busy one, including 6,300 healthcare workers in Buffalo.
Riding the momentum of increased union activity that started during the pandemic, the month of October 2021 saw roughly 100,000 workers in the U.S. across numerous industries participate or threaten to strike. October 2022 is shaping up to be a repeat.
Public opinion for workers’ rights hasn’t been this high since the mid-1960s, with President Ronald Reagan’s firing of more than 11,000 striking air traffic controllers in 1981 perhaps marking the lowest point in workers’ bargaining power.
The issues this year are similar to last year, including low wages, forced overtime, perpetual staff shortages, all with the possibility of contracting COVID on the job at any moment. Burnout has been particularly common among healthcare workers. A recent story about the burnout of working seven days a week causing Dr. Kimberly Becher’s heart to physically “break” is just one of many.
Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act)
Strikes in 2021 brought additional attention to the PRO Act, introduced in the House of Representatives earlier that year. This would be an amendment to the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 to improve “various labor protections related to employees’ rights to organize and collectively bargain in the workplace.”
Among other enhancements, the PRO Act would prevent employers from requiring workers to attend meetings intended to discourage union-forming and support workers’ rights to unionize.
Will it work?
If the statistics are any indication, yes, labor unions are enjoying a stark increase in popularity and influence.
Incredible progress has been made in union organizing in recent years, with hard won victories at notorious union-busting companies like Starbucks, Amazon and Trader Joe’s. Petitions to hold union elections have increased by 58% this year so far. According to a Gallup poll, labor unions currently enjoy a 71% public approval rating, inching up slightly from 68% in 2021.
The effects from Striketober 2022 won’t be clear for several months, but the trend lines are encouraging.