What’s been the spark behind all the recent strikes and attempts to unionize?

Sabri Ben-Achour and Daniel Shin Oct 7, 2021
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Boxes of Kellogg's cereals including Froot Loops, Cocoa Krispies and Raisin Bran are seen at a store in Arlington, Virginia. Kellogg's factory workers are on strike this week. They're demanding better working conditions, benefits and protesting the outsourcing of jobs.  SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

What’s been the spark behind all the recent strikes and attempts to unionize?

Sabri Ben-Achour and Daniel Shin Oct 7, 2021
Heard on:
Boxes of Kellogg's cereals including Froot Loops, Cocoa Krispies and Raisin Bran are seen at a store in Arlington, Virginia. Kellogg's factory workers are on strike this week. They're demanding better working conditions, benefits and protesting the outsourcing of jobs.  SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
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The Kellogg Company said it’s preparing to restart production at four U.S. cereal plants as over 1,000 factory workers continue to strike this week. They’re demanding better working conditions, benefits and protesting the outsourcing of jobs. 

We’ve seen a few high-profile strikes and union efforts this year, including in Hollywood and at Amazon. We wanted to understand what’s behind this? Why now? Marketplace Morning Report’s Sabri Ben-Achour spoke to Harry Holzer, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University. Below is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Sabri Ben-Achour: So all these recent high profile unionization efforts or strikes, are these all a product of the pandemic? Or is this about economic forces that were already in motion?

Harry Holzer: I think the combination of the decades of stagnant wages, on top of the period of the pandemic, made American workers a little ornery, less likely to simply accept the low wages, low benefits in many jobs that they used to accept. And maybe that’s why you’re seeing it show up in organizing activity and strike activity.

Ben-Achour: Workers, it seems to have more leverage now, because of labor shortages. Do you think that’s going to continue?

Holzer: For a while it looks like it’s going to continue. The fact that a lot of workers don’t want to accept the jobs they had before, that puts pressure on employers to up the ante. Now there’s a separate question of whether these efforts will be successful. For instance, I’m more pessimistic that this new union organizing is really going to work. The effort to unionize Amazon in the union’s defeat in Alabama, indicates that the playing field is tilted against unions.

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