As society attempts to return to pre-pandemic normalcy, prices in the United States and around the world are steadily increasing. According to a Pew Research Center article published in June 2022, in 37 out of 44 countries, the average annual inflation rate in the first quarter of that year was at least twice what it was in the first quarter of 2020, at the start of COVID-19. In 16 countries, including the U.S., first-quarter inflation was more than four times the level of two years prior, the article notes.
Yet, as prices rise, wages stay the same, causing millions of people all over the world to face harsh economic realities. Workers in America and Europe are fed up and striking against the greedy multi-million- and billion-dollar corporations who are exploiting them and cutting corners to save themselves money. Workers are demanding livable wages, job security, healthcare, safety, retirement benefits, first contract, and staffing.
In the U.S, this wave of strikes has been dubbed, “Hot Labor Summer.” Those on strike or on the verge of strike include Hollywood writers and actors, UPS workers, Southern California hotel workers, Southwest Airlines pilots, graduate-student workers at universities and doctors at Stanford Health Care in California.
A map of authorized strikes by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) lists over 20 ongoing strikes in the U.S. Industries with striking workers include arts and entertainment, information, manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, educational services, accommodation and food services and retail trade.
Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations’ Action Labor Tracker has a more expansive map of labor strikes in the country. From January 1 to July 21, 195 labor actions were found in 303 locations. While the bulk are in California and New York, strikes are also occurring in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine.
As workers revolt against their employers, labor unions are becoming increasingly popular. According to a 2022 Gallup poll, 71 percent of Americans approve of labor unions, up from 64 percent before the pandemic. The figure is the highest Gallup has recorded on this measure since 1965.
“America is becoming a boiling cauldron of gross dissatisfaction. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said 30 percent dissatisfaction could lead to a change that affects 75 percent of the world. But when you get 100 percent dissatisfaction, it leads to a total change,” the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said in an article published in The Final Call on Aug. 4, 2018, titled, “What’s Troubling America?”
“What you have all over the earth is total dissatisfaction, and this is why Jesus said there would be wars and rumors of wars and kingdom would rise against kingdom, and nation against nation. And this is just the beginning of sorrow. There would be famine, pestilence and earthquakes in diverse places. Is not that what you are seeing?” he added.
Hollywood writers and actors strike
Two strikes making headlines are Hollywood writers and actors. More than 11,000 screenwriters from the Writers Guild of America (WGA) have been striking since May and have recently been joined by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), which represents nearly 160,000 actors, performers and media professionals.
Writers and actors are demanding from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) an increase in minimum residuals and royalties, residual compensation from streaming services, better pension and health plans and the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI).
Writers and actors from popular, and sometimes award-winning shows have been sharing images of their paychecks on social media. The WGA called Netflix, Paramount, Warner Bros., Fox, Disney and Comcast out for making $28-$30 billion altogether, in recent years, while some writers are making pennies.
Allegedly, studios are planning to wait the writers out, possibly until October.
“The studios and the AMPTP believe that by October most writers will be running out of money after five months on the picket lines and no work,” says a Deadline article. “The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses,” a studio executive told Deadline.
The writer’s strike could cost California alone $2.1 billion, according to a research report by the Milken Institute.
The writers and actors aren’t alone in their struggle. Workers in Los Angeles, from hotel workers to teachers to strippers, have been standing in solidarity to fight against corporate greed and for fair pay.
UPS vs. Teamsters
Writers, actors, UPS workers, and others in L.A. convened during a joint practice picket on July 19. “Where’s the UPS workers? Not only do you stand with us, but you also do the work that make all of our lives better. You’re the ones who deliver the life-saving packages like food and medical supplies, and you’re the ones who are raising the bar in this industry,” a woman at the picket says, in a short clip posted by the People’s City Council LA.
While UPS workers who are members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a labor union, are not officially on strike, they have been holding practice pickets across the country. About 340,000 workers are prepared to strike on August 1 if negotiations related to a new, five-year labor contract with UPS do not go as planned. The current contract expires on July 31.
UPS has already agreed to put air-conditioning in new delivery vehicles and to eliminate a two-tier wage system among drivers. Teamsters are also demanding wage increases, improved pension benefits, and health and welfare benefit protections.
Experts predict that if a strike takes place, it would be the largest single-employer strike in U.S. history. It could cause long wait times for packages and increased prices for shipping.
According to a 2020 UPS press release, “UPS is a significant part of the fabric of the global economy. The company transports more than three percent of global GDP and about six percent of U.S. GDP daily.”
On its website, UPS says that it delivers packages each business day for 1.6 million shipping customers to 11.1 million delivery customers in over 220 countries and territories. “In 2022, we delivered an average of 24.3 million packages per day, totaling 6.2 billion packages during the year. Total revenue in 2022 was $100.3 billion,” the website states.
A study by Anderson Economic Group, a consulting firm, found that a 10-day UPS strike could cost the U.S. economy $7 billion.
UPS pilots are standing in solidarity with Teamsters. The Independent Pilots Association, which represents 3,400 pilots, has vowed to not turn an aircraft wheel for UPS.
“The loss of UPS’ air unit will make it very difficult for the company to operate with thousands of non-union members they are training to move packages in the event of a strike,” reports CNN.
Strikes in Europe
Meanwhile in Britain, The Independent, a British online newspaper, reported that junior doctors belonging to the British Medical Association staged a five-day walkout, senior doctors put down their stethoscopes for 48 hours and strikes by both the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (Aslef) have disrupted rail services.
“Months of negotiations between the government and unions representing workers in public-facing professions have failed to yield a solution to ongoing disputes over pay and working conditions in a number of sectors, leaving the NHS (National Health Service) with little choice but to cancel routine appointments and treatments and travelers stranded on platforms,” the newspaper reports.
It listed a slew of national strike dates in July alone, starting with the Aslef train drivers’ union six-day overtime ban. Along with the strikes by rail workers, train drivers and junior and senior doctors, teachers in England belonging to the National Education Union staged about four days of strike action.
While Aslef and RMT strikes were suspended on July 21 due to progress being made during talks, other transportation-related unions are still threatening to strike.
Union Syndicale Bruxelles is threatening strikes against Eurocontrol, which would impact air traffic control and flight plan validations. Protests in France have caused the budget airline Ryanair to cancel 900 flights in June and up to 10,000 pounds of trash to pile up on the streets of Paris by sanitation workers, according to Euronews.
Europe has narrowly avoided several more strikes which have now been suspended, including a month-long strike by 2,000 staff at London Heathrow Airport, an eight-day strike by 1,000 workers at London’s Gatwick Airport and potential strikes at Birmingham Airport.
Hundreds of flights in Italy have been canceled due to air transport strikes, hundreds of retail workers in Spain walked off the job in one strike amidst another strike by Spain’s Air Europa pilots and strikes in Germany disrupted flights and trains.
The reasons why workers are striking in Europe are the same reasons they are striking in America: low wages, especially in this age of high inflation, poor working conditions and little pension and health benefits.
Greed: A spiritual disease
Between social justice issues and rampant and persistent inequalities, the lack of fair wages and proper working conditions under multi-million- and billion-dollar corporations are just more reasons for the growing dissatisfaction across the nations of the earth.
In his book “A Torchlight for America,” which turns 30 this year, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan criticized greed and the state of mind that leads to it.
“The fundamental motivation in this society is greed and the preying upon the weak of the country and the weak of the world, versus sharing wealth in cooperation with the weak and the poor,” he wrote. “‘Greed’ is defined as a ‘selfish desire for possessions and wealth beyond reason.’ When greed is exercised in the society, it is reflected by division among the people.”
“The business community is so filled with greed that the bottom line means more to corporate America than the lives of the people and America’s well-being as a nation,” he added.
He described greed as a “spiritual disease.”
“Qualified spiritual teachers have to be urged to teach the populace, particularly the rich, against their greed and immorality and put the people in a position to make sacrifices. Without the will to make sacrifices, the country will go down. The rich have to be imbued with that spiritual and moral desire to sacrifice more of their profits to help America survive. Or else, the future, which is already mortgaged, will most assuredly be lost to revolution and anarchy,” Minster Farrakhan concluded.