The Business of Strikes

Written by Nancy Javkhlan on Sunday, 27 August 2023. Posted in Business Analytics

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

While we all might’ve dreamt about being a world-famous actor one day living the classic Hollywood superstar life with movies breaking records, current strikes going on between SAG-AFTRA and the WGA may cause you to think twice. 

In fact, August 23, 2023 marks 113 days of being on strike for the Writers Guild of America. To put that on scale, the last WGA strike was in 2007 and lasted for 100 days which led to 37,700 jobs that were lost “and a $2.1 billion blow to the California economy, according to the Milken Institute, an economic think tank” (Liu 2023). Yet while companies like Universal Studios work hard to shut down the strikes happening by cutting trees that provide shade alongside the picket line for SAG-AFTRA just like they cut their paychecks, they’re not the only ones. 

Employees ranging from Starbucks baristas, American Airlines pilots, Hollywood actors and writers, Sequoia National Park shuttle drivers, Los Angeles hotel housekeepers, to even workers at the Leinenkugel’s Brewery have gone on strike this summer, making this the known “summer of strikes”. 

As we continue our summer of strikes unlike our summer vacations, we must look into the business of strikes, and the different reasons for why they occur. 

While we see more and more strikes occur this year, if anything, the Economic Policy Institute says it the best because “the real question is: Why didn’t we see more of these actions sooner?”

One common reason thought to explain why strikes occur are weak salaries, however many current strikes highlight different concerns that cause reason to go on a strike. A powerful example of what the threat of strikes can achieve was seen by UPS workers this year. As a multinational shipping and supply chain company, the last strike UPS has seen was in 1997, and “lasted 15 days and cost the company $850 million” according the NPR. However, if a strike occurred by UPS this year, it “could have cost the U.S. economy more than $7 billion”, very convincing numbers to give more power to the strikers. Yet what the UPS workers wanted was not a higher salary for the sake of having a higher salary, but instead the amount of economic growth and profit that they have caused at UPS this year, but have received no output or bonus due to these profits. In fact, according to CBS News, “some workers [were] pushing for starting pay of $25 an hour — the same amount they were making in 1983 when adjusting for inflation”. This threat of strike worked out for UPS, as new deals have been made to prevent the economic disaster that would’ve resulted from a UPS strike, with “across-the-board pay raises of $2.75 an hour”, raises of “more than $15,000 a year for full-time workers”, and agreements “to purchase only air-conditioned vans starting next year”, which were a large safety concern for the union (CNN Business). 

Another reason for strikes are basic human needs, such as healthcare, a concern that the actor union SAG-AFTRA are currently highlighting. In order for actors to qualify under the SAG-AFTRA healthcare plan, they must make at least $26,000 a year, yet numbers from Teen Vogue show 80% of SAG-AFTRA’s numbers don’t even make $26,000 a year. This leads them with no support in case of emergency, as they save every dollar possible through multiple side gigs and acting jobs as possible to make life possible. Where actors used to once have stable jobs due to the long process of filming and episodes that came out on TV once a week, the world of streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu have cut profits from actors to the point of inaccessible healthcare. 

On top of issues like lack of healthcare, safe working conditions, control over personal schedule, abusive management, and quality pay, is the ignorance that corporations pay to their workers. When workers aren’t listened too, they are forced to go on strike.

As we continue into a “summer of strikes”, we can only hope that these strikes inspire many other workers under unfair conditions to step along the picket lines and reestablish the power workers have over corporations.

About the Author

Nancy Javkhlan

Nancy Javkhlan

Nancy is a Business Analytics Writer at Girls For Business.

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