Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 26 January 2022

Trade unionists in the USA fighting back

10,000 United Auto Workers union members have recently taken strike action, photo Jay Peeples/CC

10,000 United Auto Workers union members have recently taken strike action, photo Jay Peeples/CC   (Click to enlarge)

Jeff Booth, AFSCME Local 3650 (personal capacity) and Independent Socialist Group (CWI - US)

In 2021, union workers were involved in at least 346 strikes across most sectors of the US economy including manufacturing, transportation, and services.

During October, there were 53 strikes of over 28,000 workers. "Striketober" and "strikesgiving" were terms used to describe a series of important, high-visibility strikes. Many union members were willing to stand up and risk a struggle against corporate power to improve their lives.

High profile strikes included 10,000 manufacturing workers in the United Auto Workers (UAW) union at four John Deere farm equipment factories; over a thousand bakery and distribution workers in the bakery workers union (BCTGM) at Nabisco; 2,000 healthcare workers in Buffalo, New York; and 1,400 BCTGM cereal workers at Kellogg's in four states.

Around 1,100 coal miners in the United Mine Workers (UMW) at Warrior Met Coal in Alabama are still on strike. Over 700 nurses in the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) at St Vincent hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts, have just achieved a victory in the longest nurses' strike in Massachusetts history (see our coverage at

With union action on the rise, some mega-corporations were put on the defensive in 2021. The threat of a strike in November by approximately 32,000 healthcare workers in the Alliance of Health Care Unions (AHCU) forced the Kaiser Permanente corporation to quickly retreat from recruiting scabs at $12,500 a week to strike-break.

Instead, the corporation offered a settlement, backing off from severe understaffing and attempts to cut wages for new workers by creating a two-tier wage structure.

IATSE, a union representing technicians and others in film, TV, and theatre production, held a strike vote for 60,000 workers in 36 of its locals. Among the 90% of eligible union members who voted, 98% voted to go on strike. It would have been the union's first nationwide strike. The members were ready to walk over issues like forced overtime, lack of meal breaks, and time to rest in between shifts. The big entertainment companies were forced into concessions, but many IATSE members thought the contract proposal didn't offer enough. The vote to accept it barely passed.

There's a trend of more union members opposing concessionary contracts. In 2021, many union members refused to accept the usual givebacks. Recent examples of union members repeatedly rejecting contract deals include UAW strikers at Volvo, John Deere, and the bakery workers at Kellogg's.

Strikes in 2021 reflected a growing mood of anger and defiance among working people. Deliberate understaffing, forced overtime, and severe problems for many workers before Covid became worse in 2020-21. Workers churned out huge profits for corporations under pandemic conditions.

The two largest corporations in the US - Amazon and Walmart - grabbed $10.7 billion in profits, a 56% increase in 2020. Despite record profits, corporations cut jobs and laid off workers in historic numbers with employment crashing.

In 2020, over 9.37 million jobs were cut. This is almost double the 5 million jobs that were lost in 2009 after the global financial crisis.

A recent Gallup Poll showed 68% of the U.S. approve of labour unions, the highest percentage since 1965. The same poll recorded 77% approval for unions among 18-34 year olds. In a 2017 survey, nearly half of non-union workers (48%) said they would join a union, a 50% increase since 1995.

Important sections of workers are striking, and there's new interest in unions from mostly unorganised industries, including food service (Starbucks, Burgerville), grad students (MIT, University of New Mexico), and big tech (Kickstarter, Glitch).

Struggles to intensify

2022 could be a year of renewed energy and growth in the labour movement.

However, mass organising of millions of workers into unions means radical change in union strategy. The pandemic pressures continue, and surging inflation is erasing wage increases won in recent strikes and contract negotiations.

The 'Great Resignation'* shows workers looking for a way out of dead-end, low-wage jobs with minimal benefits. Instability, precarious jobs, and living paycheque to paycheque grind on, so many workers want to join unions.

There are basic changes the labour movement could implement to raise the profile of unions and make immediate gains in organising, including multiple unions organising together against Amazon, Walmart, and other corporations. It's not realistic for one relatively small union, the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, trying to organise Amazon on its own, as happened in Bessemer, Alabama.

Basic solidarity needs to be rediscovered, like refusing to cross other unions' picket lines. For example, in the strike of union nurses at St Vincent hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts, leaders of UFCW Local 1445 and Teamster Local 170 had their members crossing the nurses' picket lines throughout the strike.

Union leaders should also stop wasting money and resources supporting the corporate political parties, the Democrats and Republicans, and massively increase money and resources for organising.

The problems preventing the organising of millions of workers into unions are systemic. Capitalism uses and abuses labour and nature on a world scale, exploiting cheap labour and natural resources around the globe for short-term maximisation of profits, no matter the cost to people and the environment. With the technology in place today, capital is even more mobile and dangerous than in the past.

Workers' party

Unions need to organise on an international scale to launch strikes and other job actions against multinational corporations, in many different countries at the same time. Capitalist political parties like the Democrats won't pass laws preventing corporations from laying-off workers and moving production to other countries. The Democratic Party won't seize the assets of runaway corporations or take big corporations under public ownership to save jobs and increase union power.

The labour movement needs to be the backbone of organising a mass workers' party in the US. Just beginning that process will push politics to the left, and could win crucial reforms like a $20 an hour minimum wage and free, universal healthcare.

Social benefits are comparatively weak in the US mainly because there's no mass political party for working people. Workers' parties (labour, socialist, communist) in many other countries were essential to winning free or heavily subsidised healthcare, childcare, higher education, and housing benefits.

Socialists led the organisation of the first labour unions in the US. Every significant upsurge in the labour movement happened when the left and mass social movements were on the rise.

In the early 20th century, regional labour parties and the Socialist Party strengthened the labour movement. The growth of the Communist Party and other left groups was central to the organising of mass industrial unions and the CIO (Confederation of Industrial Organisations) in the 1930s.

A large increase in public sector union organising in the late 1960s and 1970s was infused with the militancy of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements and the mass anti-Vietnam war protests.

Union density in the US has declined since 1954. At that time, the combination of the Taft-Hartley Act, 'McCarthyism' (political witch-hunts), and labour leaders supporting the Democratic Party severely weakened unions. Cutting the link between socialist ideas and the labour movement was a crucial reason for the decline of union membership and power.

Socialism provides the tools to analyse how the capitalist system works and why corporations are always out for higher profits regardless of the cost to society and the environment. Socialists have an alternative to capitalism: bringing democracy to the economy through democratic planning of labour power, social production, and distribution for human needs and a healthy environment. The labour movement needs the analysis, programme, and vision of socialism to fight and win against corporate power.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • We must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation £


Your message: 


In The Socialist 26 January 2022:

What we think

We need a workers' alternative to big business Tories and Labour


Lords reject parts of anti-protest bill

News in brief

Social care providers put profit before residents' needs - nationalise care now

Cost of living

Cost of living crisis

Trade unions and the cuts

Trade unions and the fight against council cuts

Workplace news

Barts NHS workers strike back

Sheffield Just Eat strikers step up action and hold mass rally

Oaks Park School: valiant strike exposed state of schools

Education: Workload and inflation goes up, incomes fall

DWP reps demand action from PCS leadership

10,000 tube workers vote to strike - don't make workers pay for TfL funding crisis

Strike action by Carmarthenshire winter gritters wins concessions from council

Universities: Strike action at 68 in two disputes

Worksop Wincanton logistics workers begin ninth week of strike action

International news

Trade unionists in the USA fighting back

Campaigns news

Hundreds protest to save St Mary's Leisure Centre in Southampton

Wakefield TUSC - Fighting for low-paid workers and NHS

Eviction resistance on the march in Waltham Forest

This is students' chance to fight back - help build 2 March NUS walkout

Selling the Socialist


Britain's waterways choked with a 'chemical cocktail'

Readers' opinion

War in Yemen, made in Harlow, profit for rich

Somers 'slaughterhouse' Forge

UK Covid-19 mortality similar to Spanish Flu

It's my party, and I'll lie if I want to


Home   |   The Socialist 26 January 2022   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleUSA: Right-wing vigilante Rittenhouse acquitted - capitalist courts will not defend the working class!

triangleWe don't want a USA-style healthcare system

triangleBiden's policies will not solve underlying US crisis

triangleUSA: cop killings and the anti-racist movement

triangleUSA in crisis - the need for a socialist alternative


triangleFor workers' unity against war in Ukraine

triangleWorkers and students unite and fight

triangleCanada: Prime Minister Trudeau invokes Emergencies Act to end 'Freedom Convoy'

triangleThe Erdington byelection and the fight for a new mass workers' party


triangleJust Eat couriers continue action to fight pay cut

triangleTrade union support for standing anti-cuts election candidates

triangleUsdaw: 'Reinstate Max' week of action


triangleBrighton Green and Labour cuts - workers and communities fight back

trianglePrivatisation and crisis in the NHS


triangleSurrey: Unions and campaigns say stand as an anti-cuts candidate



For workers' unity against war in Ukraine



One year after the military coup in Myanmar



Canada: Prime Minister Trudeau invokes Emergencies Act to end 'Freedom Convoy'



Ukraine: Workers' unity against capitalist warmongers and imperialist meddlers



CWI video on Ukraine



Pro-market Socialist Party wins Portugal's election



Oxfam 'Inequality Kills' report



Tamil Solidarity protest against repressive Sri Lankan regime



Ukraine: Workers' unity needed


Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland: Bloody Sunday 50 years on


Burkina Faso

Coup d'état in Burkina Faso



France: Education workers and students walkout



School students strike in Austria



Trade unionists in the USA fighting back



Murder of Ashling Murphy sends shocks waves across Ireland and beyond

triangleMore articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 077 7221 5281

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 078 0983 9793



Alphabetical listing

August 2022

July 2022

June 2022

May 2022

April 2022

March 2022

February 2022

January 2022