US labor upsurge in the auto sector: The UAW on the offensive

Type de publication:

Conference Paper

Auteurs:

John Tuman

Source:

Gerpisa colloquium, Bordeaux (2024)

Résumé:

The U.S. labor movement has experienced a number of challenges since the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. The proliferation of right-to work laws across various U.S. states, lack of support at the federal level, and pressure from offshoring production to foreign markets have steadily eroded workers’ rights to organize, while employers have escalated anti-union campaigns. Consequentially, union resources, membership rates and capacities have been steadily shrinking (cfr. US Department of the Treasury, 2023).

Nevertheless, there have been signs of an uptick in labor activism.  In 2018 and 2019, the number of workers in the U.S. involved in major work stoppages reached its highest levels since the early 1980s. After falling sharply in 2020 and 2021 (due to the pandemic), the number of workers involved in major stoppages increased by 50% in 2022. In 2023, there were 393 strikes in the U.S. that encompassed approximately 500,000 workers (Labor Action Tracker, ILR-Cornell University). While the outcomes of these labor actions varied, there is evidence that workers experienced gains.  Unionized workers saw an average increase in wages of 7%, the largest increase since 2007.

Against the backdrop of this increase in labor activism in the U.S., this paper examines the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike in 2023.  The analysis includes a discussion of the factors that motivated the strike, the distinctive features of the UAW’s strategy during the conflict, and the outcomes.  The paper also seeks to identify the underlying factors that explain such labor upsurge in the auto sector and advances in assessing its reach.

 

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