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Unions Strike Back

September 19, 2019

In 2018 there were suddenly strikes everywhere — from fast- food restaurants to Google, from statehouses to schoolhouses. After decades of declining strike activity, workers took to the streets on a magnitude not seen in recent memory. Workers in both the public and private sector focused on bringing attention to their demands concerning wages, changes in working conditions and union status. Unions capitalized on the contentious political climate to advance their narrative despite the fact that union membership was at historic lows.

Strike activity has continued in 2019 without any signs of slowing down. Educators again took to the streets, going out on strike in school districts like Los Angeles, Oakland and Denver. These strikes were not limited to organized workforces. For example, Uber and Lyft drivers in Los Angeles held a strike in March to protest cuts to their per-mile compensation. As of now, there are no signs of this momentum slowing.

It is likely that unions will continue to take advantage of their position in this contentious political climate to mobilize workers and bring pressure on employers. For non-unionized employers, this will likely take the form of walkouts, for either a few hours or a few days. At the bargaining table, unionized employers will likely see a greater willingness by unions to push negotiations to impasse and increased threats of strikes. The best defense is a good offense: An employer can engage in preparations to minimize a strike’s economic impact.

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