Oct 6, 2021 - Economy

Workers strike back

A tiger arm raised in a fist

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The pace of strikes slowed when the pandemic hit. Now there are signs picket lines are bouncing back amid fresh worker angst.

  • What's new: Production has been halted at Kellogg cereal plants across America after 1,400 workers walked off the job in a bid for better benefits (and worries about job outsourcing).
  • The last time a cereal workers strike hit the company was nearly 50 years ago.

Also this week: Hollywood production workers signed off to authorize a strike over better labor conditions and higher pay.

  • There's no strike now, but the move — the first in its 128-year history — means they can call one at any time.
Annual Strikes in the U.S. chart
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Note: 2021 data year-to-date, includes Kellogg strike; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

The big picture: Workers are harder to come by, possibly giving employees more leverage for demands. That could be one reason why strikes are well below pre-pandemic levels.

  • Still, employers aren't bending all the way, causing enough of a stalemate for strikes in the first place.

What to watch: From Hollywood studios to factories, the work stoppages could threaten America’s recovery — already plagued by a shortage of stuff.

  • "My guess is Kellogg will try to bring in outside workers to start some of our lines up to keep food in their network," says Daniel Osborn, a maintenance planner at Kellogg's Omaha, Nebraska, plant, adding that might be difficult for the company. (That worker shortage again.)
  • Osborn is the local head of the national union behind the weekslong strike at Nabisco factoriesthat ended last month.
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