ASU economics professor on the recent string of labor actions in the U.S.

There have been some notable labor actions making headlines recently, from Hollywood to the auto industry. In Phoenix, cannabis workers recently went on strike.
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 9:56 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — The current auto workers strike is one of several strikes we’ve seen this summer as thousands of workers demand better pay and benefits across the country. Since the pandemic, there’s been a surge in labor activity across the US, from strikes to unions forming at some places like Starbucks, including here in Phoenix, and Amazon. So, are strikes making a comeback? We asked longtime ASU economics professor Dennis Hoffman to weigh in.

“I think to some degree, at least in the short run, they’re making a comeback,” Hoffman said.

The Labor Department reports the US lost more than 4 million days of work due to strikes and lockouts in August, the highest level in more than 20 years.

Hoffman says even though strikes have increased in recent years, it doesn’t compare to the number of strikes in the 1950s and 1960s. “You can pick any year back in the 50s, 60s — the major economic events were always strikes, and they were, really, very regular,” he added.

He also says that workers have more power now, given the country’s current labor shortage. “There’s just not enough labor market participation today to fill all the jobs that are needed, and until that happens, workers are going to have more power. They’re going to have more leverage,” he said.

He also says some workers now want a bigger slice of the pie and aren’t afraid to band together to try to make that happen. “Members of the Board, CEOs, management have benefited tremendously, and now labor is saying, ‘hey, it’s our turn. It’s our time,’” he said. “And they have the power now that they didn’t have, let’s say, five and 10 years ago, so they’re using that power as leverage, and we see that in autos, we see it in movies.”

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