Workers have become more willing to go on strike during the pandemic, citing burnout, underpaid

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“It’s not uncommon for people to work 12, 14 hours a day, five, six days a week,” he said, “and I think people realized they wanted a better work balance. -personal life.”

A year and a half after the start of the pandemic, workers are exhausted and fatigued, and, emboldened by the labor shortage, many of them, especially those who are unionized, are increasingly willing to take a stand. Strikes increased nationwide in October, with at least 40 actions underway (including 26 which have started so far this month) and 187 since the start of the year, according to the new report from the ‘Cornell University. Follow-up of union action.

Ten thousand workers are on strike at John deere, which experienced its first major walkout in three decades. Over 2000 Catholic health Buffalo workers left work, as did 1,400 workers in Kellogg cereal plants.

In Massachusetts, 700 nurses at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester have been on strike since March. The stagehands at the North Shore Music Theater in Beverly have closed the opening night, joined by the orchestra and cast members who refused to cross the picket line. And the union representing 4,500 Harvard University graduate students are ready to march if a deal is not reached by the end of the month. Hotel workers at several properties in Boston are set to confront their managers over the return of room service and other offers to get more people back to work, as part of a wave of hotel actions that is brewing. takes place in 29 cities next week.

Many of those confronting their employers have been on the front lines during the COVID crisis, working in potentially dangerous situations and facing strict safety protocols. At first, those deemed “essential” were hailed as heroes, but the praise was fleeting. and the temporary increases have long expired. Employees who watch their businesses reap profits as the economy rebounds – Deere & Co.’s earnings increased 84% in the first three quarters of the year compared to this period in 2019 – also demanding a bigger slice of the pie.

For others, the pandemic has been a wake-up call to pursue their dreams, or at least a better job, and some people who have been happy to work from home – or don’t want to be vaccinated – resist calls to return to the office. In August, there were 10.4 million job postings, following a record high in July, and 4.3 million employees left their jobs, setting a record pace.

Difficulty for employers to find workers, combined with work ‘intensification’ and growing dissatisfaction with low-wage, dead-end jobs, gives employees more leverage, say union activists and academics.

“Many of these workers have been on the front lines of a global pandemic for a year and a half now, and there is a source of energy in them… working under such harsh conditions,” said Johnnie Kallas, a former union organizer and doctoral student at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations who helped create the Labor Action Tracker. “You see some of that frustration expressing itself right now.”

There have already been 14 work stoppages involving at least 1,000 workers every this year, Kallas said. This figure has already exceeded the number of major strikes in recent years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which only follows those with more than 1,000 workers. They were 27 in 2019, the highest number in nearly two decades.

But the union actions that are now taking place are being watched closely as worker dissatisfaction grows and public support grows. According to a new Gallup poll, 68 percent of Americans approve of unions, the highest rating since 1965.

The union campaign by Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama, which was defeated in April, has been the subject of national interest, although the results are disputed, and workers at four Amazon facilities on Staten Island, undeterred, seek to organize federal elections to form a union.

Other non-traditional workplaces are also getting organized. Workers of Hello fresh, the meal kit company, are voting to unionize across the country. “The fact that for once we’re not totally disposable, they need us, now was the perfect time,” said a Starbucks shift manager in Buffalo. The New York Times about his store’s union campaign.

Some workers are so fed up with being overworked and understaffed that they band together to quit. “We’ve all stopped,” read the sign outside a Burger King in Lincoln, Neb., in July. “Sorry for the inconvenience.”

“We have been working 7 days a week for the past month and we have hardly any time off,” read a note on the door of a restaurant in Macon, Georgia., which was closed with a massive resignation in September.

Nurses at Saint Vincent Hospital have been on the picket line for nearly eight months – the longest nurses’ strike in state history – in large part due to a staff crisis that has been exacerbated by the pandemic, said Marlena Pellegrino, a registered nurse who has worked at the hospital for her entire 35-year career. During the pandemic, it was “all boots on the ground” for nurses, she said. But rather than moving those from units closed due to the pandemic to help COVID patients, as other hospitals have done, she said, administrators pressured nurses to leave. in vacations. Those who remain have been forced to do more with less, Pellegrino said, and the hospital is benefiting.

“They saw a way to save money,” she said. “Everything we did to save our patients during the pandemic was then turned around and used against us.”

A spokesperson for Saint-Vincent noted that the leave was voluntary and the nurse-to-patient ratio was only slightly high during the first wave of the pandemic.

At Harvard University, when the pandemic shut down the lab where doctoral student Zoe Feder worked, she suddenly found herself with more time to get involved with the graduate student union. After learning more about the low wages and lack of protections of student workers, and motivated by a desire to help make the biomedical research community more equitable, she began to organize – and ultimately voted for authorize a strike.

Before, she said, “I just didn’t have the bandwidth to really pay attention, and then the pandemic kind of put everything on hold. … The kind of pandemic has caused people to reorient their priorities. “

The North Shore Music Theater stagehands were not unionized before the pandemic, but after several staff and family members became seriously ill with COVID in March 2020, and three died, the workers contacted IATSE Local 11, President Christopher Welling said. The union told them they were underpaid, which led to a one-day strike earlier this month. The machinists are now back to work with a pay rise.

“COVID has made them realize that life is too short to be in a bad job or a job that doesn’t pay well,” Welling said. “Everyone woke up.


Katie Johnston can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.



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