Amid A Strong Economy, Union Leaders Emboldened To Strike

Thanks to the strong economy and tight labor market, workers are emboldened to ask for more compensation and to resort to striking if need be, reported The Wall Street Journal.

According to the report, in the past few weeks, hotel housekeepers in Chicago who are unionized, distillery workers in Kentucky and Seattle crane operators are choosing to strike, citing the need for better pay and benefits. Meanwhile, 31,000 teachers in Los Angeles are gearing up to strike, while members of ArcelorMittal’s union and U.S. Steel Corp.’s unionized employees have been given the authority to strike if talks don’t advance.

The news comes as the unemployment rate in the country is at 3.9 percent as of August, which is only slightly higher than an 18-year low, reported The WSJ. At the same time, companies are having a hard time filling positions for employees, resulting in more leverage on the part of union leaders to negotiate better salaries and benefits. It also means they are more comfortable turning to strikes to get what they want.

The publication reported that labor fights, excluding teachers, have resulted in workers missing 633,000 days on the job through August – an increase from 44,000 days for all for of last year, citing the Labor Department. What’s more, there have been more days lost to labor fights so far in 2018 than in any full year since 2006.

“They see the economy is growing, but their share of it is not,” Thomas A. Kochan, a professor of industrial relations at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, told The WSJ. “We have not seen that take place in years.”

Despite the booming economy, wages have been rising at a slow pace compared to the low unemployment rate. The paper noted that private sector workers’ hourly wages increased 2.8 percent in August compared to 2017, below the 4 percent growth rate seen in late 2000. It does match the best gain on a year-over-year basis since 2009, when the economy came out of the Great Recession. Factory workers saw wages grow at a lower than average rate of just 1.1 percent, noted the report.


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