UNITED STATES A wave of labor strikes

An actual strike wave by union workers and unorganized workers is under way. With low labor union membership and labor laws designed to prevent or discourage union organizing, this strike wave has come as a surprise to most. 

On the picket line at the Kellog’s factory in Battle Creek, Michigan

At least 169 strikes occurred in 2021 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, an increasing number of U.S. workers are saying we’ve had enough: enough of low wages and lousy conditions, enough of risking our lives while billionaires score record profits. 

As covid restrictions have begun to ease up, stimulus checks have come to a close, politicians and the media assumed unemployed or underemployed would go back to work eagerly no matter how bad the pay or working conditions. Yet, employers are scrambling to fill vacant positions. Plus, huge numbers of workers are quitting the jobs they already had, some 3% of the workforce each month since April; a record number of 4.3 million in August alone. This is combined with an actual strike wave by union workers and unorganized workers despite low labor union membership and laws designed to prevent or discourage union organizing. 

Just how many striking workers are there? The numbers change daily but according to Julia Conley, a writer of Nation of Change, 100,000 workers are either on strike or have voted to go on strike as of October 14 2021. Cornell University (New York State) Labor Action Tracker – a kind of study center on union action – shows at least 169 strikes occurring in 2021, 11 of which involved 1,000 workers or more. A strike of nurses at Saint Vincent’s hospital in Worcester, Mass, has been continuing since March and certain coal miners in Alabama have been out since April. 

Workers are currently on strike against 46 employers. 10,000 workers just struck farm equipment manufacturer John Deere. Almost 550 labor-related protests have been reported in 2021. These actions are happening throughout the country and in a wide range of industries and occupations. 

What does all this indicate? For one thing, it shows a growing awareness of the depravity of the capitalist system. For another, it shows an increasing willingness by workers to take action in defiance of assumption that U.S. workers are too reactionary, divided, apathetic, complacent, or exhausted to resist. But building up this movement into a coordinated force will not be easy since U.S. workers lack political representation and militant leadership. The leadership of most unions is unwilling to educate or mobilize its membership to act independently of the corporatecontrolled Democratic Party, one of the twin capitalist parties. We, U.S. workers need a party of our own, rooted in the unions and communities. 

Millie Philips, member of Socialist Organizer