0316 GMT November 27, 2021
If they fail to reach agreement with the Hollywood studios on a new collective bargaining contract, 60,000 members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees plan to strike today, AFP reported.
Some 31,000 employees of the Kaiser Permanente healthcare group in the western states of California and Oregon are also poised to strike soon.
Since Thursday, 10,000 employees of the John Deere farm equipment company have been on strike; while 1,400 workers walked off the job at the Kellogg's cereal company on October 5, and more than 2,000 employees of Mercy Hospital in Buffalo, New York, began striking on October 1.
The sudden rash of strikes this month has even led some to coin the word "Striketober," a neologism since embraced on social media even by prominent progressive Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
During the pandemic, workers say, they often had to bear extra burdens to make up for others who were staying home.
"We've sacrificed our time with our families, we missed ballgames with our kids and dinners and weddings, in order to keep boxes of cereal on the shelves," said Dan Osborn, a mechanic at Kellogg's for 18 years.
"And this is how we're getting repaid," he continued, "by asking us to take concessions at a time when the CEO and executives have taken increases in their compensation."
Osborn, the president of a local chapter of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union (BCTGM), said workers object to a two-tier pay system that leaves some newer employees making far less than older workers.
"We are not asking for anything as far as increases in our wages and benefits," he said. Nor are workers opposing long hours.
But they do reject a pay system that leaves some employees earning less for the same work, and to a revocation of inflation-linked pay raises – particularly at a time when prices have been surging.
"The strike can go however long it takes," Osborn said. "All we have to do is hold out one day longer than the company."
Most of the strikes are motivated by demands for better working conditions, said Kate Bronfenbrenner, who specializes in union and labor issues at Cornell University in New York.
"Companies are making more profits than ever, and workers are being pushed to work harder than ever, sometimes risking their lives to go back to work in the context of COVID," she said.
So when employers refuse to compromise, Bronfenbrenner added, "workers are less willing to ratify contracts they feel don't meet their needs."
The exact number of strikes now under way is difficult to know, as the US government keeps track only of those affecting more than 1,000 employees.
But the movement has grown since a 2018 strike by West Virginia teachers, said Josh Murray, a sociology professor at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.
Unhappy with the contract negotiated by their union, those teachers went on strike – and were rewarded with a five-percent pay raise.
The result: A contagion of strikes.
"The more strikes that are successful, the more strikes follow, because workers start to believe they can actually win something and are willing to take the risk of not getting paid, of losing their job," Murray said.
For many workers, the pandemic has been an empowering time.
"Some workers started seeing that, 'Oh, wow, we're actually essential, the economy shuts down without us,'" Murray added.