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2023: A Year of Rising Trend of Strikes and Unions in US

From Hollywood to Big Detroit 3 to UPS, about half a million workers, including machinists, teachers, baristas, nurses, went on strike and won in 2023.

SAG-AFTRA members supporting WGA writers on the picket line in New York City (Photo via SAG-AFTRA/Twitter)

From the United Auto Workers to Hollywood writers and actors to nurses, to teachers, to Amazon and Starbucks workers– there was a string of strikes and formation of new unions in the world’s most powerful country, the United States of America.


The biggest strike that the US saw in 2023 was by 160,000 performers in SAG-AFTRA, who work in films and digital motion pictures, television programmes, commercials, video games, corporate/educational and non-broadcast productions, new media, television and radio news outlets. The strike saw a string of celebrities coming out to voice their support, such a Susan Sarandon, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Meryl Streep among hundreds of others.

“They stayed out for four months. Writers won gains on pay, staffing, and sharing the bonanza from streaming,” says a report in

The other big strike was by the United Auto Workers (UAW), with about 150,000 workers walking out and hitting operations at the Detroit Big Three – General Motors, Ford and Stellantis. The strike, endorsed by 64% of union members, led to UAW winning big – wage increases of up to 25%, including for temporary workers, and improved terms for temporary workers, higher retirement benefits, cost-of-living adjustments,   as well as the right to strike over future plant closures.

“The resulting strike lasted for about a month and a half, and the union got the White House to take the extraordinary step of sending the sitting president to the picket line to demonstrate support for the striking workers. President Joe Biden also held an event with Fain in Illinois and donned a red UAW shirt earlier this month,” says a report in the Politico.

UAW said since the stand-up strike, hundreds of workers at non-union auto plants had been contacting the UAW to organise.

The about 340,000 Teamsters at United Parcel Services or UPS, one of the world’s biggest logistics and delivery firms, gave a strike threat that rattled warehouses of Walmart and Amazon, leading to big gains for the union, such as hike in pay for part-time drivers, especially second-tier ones who form the “majority of the workforce”, as they also do bulk of the loading, unloading, and sorting inside warehouses.

“The union’s new leaders, President Sean O’Brien and Secretary-Treasurer Fred Zuckerman, gave detailed reports on negotiations and bargained down to the wire, while the reform caucus that backed their 2022 election, Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), spearheaded a program of shop-floor organizing and pickets. It was a winning combination that netted big wage gains and eliminated a second tier of drivers and a forced sixth workday,” says the Jacobin report.

According to Johnnie Kallas of the Cornell Labor Action Tracker, quoted by Jacobin, a poll by them showed an “uptick in union popularity to levels not seen since the 1960s. Strikes were popular, too: 78 percent supported the autoworkers, and 76 percent the actors and writers.


The year 2023 also saw a strike by healthcare workers and nurses, who strained their seams working through the pandemic. The New York nurses went on strike and won a safer work deal, inspiring nurses in New Jersey to follow suit.


Apart from these and many other strikes that won the workers a better deal, there was also a growing trend of union formations in the US – from Starbucks to Amazon, despite the owners not recognising them or even sacking of some leaders of unions in retaliation.


“Amazon has refused even to start negotiations with its union workers, using a combination of illegal repression, appeals, and delay against the seven thousand workers at JFK8 in Staten Island who voted to join the Amazon Labor Union in 2022,” said the report.

In fact, the half-million US workers who struck in 2023 doubled the strike number for 2022, which in turn nearly doubled the 2021 number, according to Cornell Labour Action Tracker.

As we step into 2024, the crisis in the world of work is going to get tougher, with the advance of new technologies, such as AI or artificial intelligence, leading to job redundancies. The challenge is huge for labour relations.  The impact will not be restricted to workers, who will bear the brunt, but for employers as well, as they will be left dealing with an unknown and unseen giant.

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