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2023 Poised to Be the Most Significant Year for Labor Activity in Nearly Four Decades as UAW Strikes Emerge

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2023 Labor Strikes: A Surge in Worker Activism

The "summer of strikes" has extended into the fall, with no signs of a slowdown in workers walking off the job. According to data from the ILR Labor Action Tracker, a staggering 362,000 workers have gone on strike in 2023, compared to 36,600 during the same period in 2021. This surge in labor activism is fueled by workers' frustration with rising income inequality that has persisted for decades.

Implications and Potential Record-Breaking Year

If the United Auto Workers (UAW) union strikes expand to include a significant portion, if not all, of the 150,000 workers who could potentially strike, 2023 could become the most significant year for labor activity since 1986. However, employees who choose to withhold their labor face potential consequences, including job loss and the loss of health insurance coverage.

Understanding the Protections for Striking Workers

While strikes can be a powerful tool for workers to exercise their power, it is crucial to be aware of the risks involved. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935 codified the right to strike into law, protecting workers who engage in lawful strikes. The National Labor Relations Board defines two classes of lawful strikers: those protesting unfair labor practices and those fighting economic conditions at their workplace.

Collective Action and Exceptions

To be protected, strikes must be conducted as collective action. This means workers must act together, whether or not they are part of a union. However, there are exceptions. Employees in the private sector covered by the Railway Labor Act (RLA), which includes most railway and airline workers, are subject to different procedures and obstacles before they can strike. Additionally, most government employees in the U.S. are prohibited from striking, with only a few states permitting certain public sector workers to strike.

Rights and Consequences for Strikers

Under the NLRA, workers cannot be fired or discriminated against for participating in a strike. However, economic strikers can be permanently replaced by their employers. If a striker's replacement leaves the job, the worker who was on strike must be offered the position before anyone else is hired. While striking workers generally lose their wages, those who strike due to unfair labor practices may qualify for back pay once the strike is resolved.

Health Insurance and Jobless Benefits

Strikers may face challenges with health insurance coverage, as employers can suspend or end coverage. However, some employers may delay removing employees from health insurance to avoid escalating conflicts. It is important to note that there is no federal law guaranteeing jobless benefits for workers on strike. However, states like New York and New Jersey provide some unemployment coverage to strikers, and other states may follow suit. As labor strikes continue to shape the labor landscape in 2023, workers must be aware of their rights and the potential consequences of their actions. Understanding the protections available and seeking legal guidance can help workers navigate the complexities of labor activism.

2023 Labor Strikes: A Potential Challenge for New Business Formations

The surge in worker activism, as evidenced by the record-breaking number of strikes in 2023, could pose significant challenges for new businesses. With 362,000 workers already having gone on strike this year, a stark increase from 2021, the labor landscape is undergoing a seismic shift.

Rising Worker Activism and New Businesses

As the United Auto Workers union strikes potentially expand, the implications for new businesses could be profound. The surge in labor activism, driven by workers' frustration with rising income inequality, could cause new businesses to rethink their labor strategies and policies. The potential for job loss and the loss of health insurance coverage for striking workers could also create a volatile labor market, making it more difficult for new businesses to secure and retain talent.

Understanding Labor Laws

New businesses must also navigate the complexities of labor laws. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935, which codifies the right to strike into law, and the Railway Labor Act (RLA), which covers most railway and airline workers, present different procedures and obstacles for strikes. Understanding these laws and their implications is crucial for new businesses to manage labor relations effectively.

Impact on Employee Benefits

The potential loss of health insurance coverage and jobless benefits for striking workers could also impact new businesses. While some states provide unemployment coverage to strikers, there is no federal law guaranteeing such benefits. This could lead to increased demands for better benefits and protections from workers, putting additional pressure on new businesses. As labor strikes continue to shape the labor landscape in 2023, new businesses must stay informed and prepared. Understanding the protections available to workers and the potential consequences of labor activism can help new businesses navigate these challenges and build more resilient and equitable labor practices.
Story First Published at: https://www.cnbc.com/2023/09/22/uaw-strikes-could-make-2023-biggest-year-for-labor-activity-in-decades.html
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