Strikes Fuel Pay Increases: The Working People Weekly List

Working People Weekly List

Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s the latest edition of the Working People Weekly List.

Low-Wage Workers Have Seen Historically Fast Real Wage Growth in the Pandemic Business Cycle: “Over the past 40 years, low- and middle-wage workers in the U.S. labor market have experienced only a few short years of strong growth in real (inflation-adjusted) wages. The current business cycle is a notable exception for the lowest-paid workers in our economy. Even in the face of rising prices, low-wage workers have experienced historically fast real wage growth. Large policy investments, combined with a tight labor market, made these strong gains possible. Women and Black and Hispanic workers have particularly benefited. But these workers still face steep wage gaps relative to men and white workers. And the nation’s lowest-paid workers still receive wages that are inadequate to meet most families’ basic needs. Policymakers need to strengthen labor standards so that workers can lock in the gains made and continue to build on them, even in weaker labor markets.”

Strikes Fuel Biggest Pay Raises in Labor Contracts Since 1990: “Contracts ratified last year called for first-year wage raises averaging 5.7%, the review of 817 deals showed. That marks a significant jump over the 3.7% average first-year increase in agreements ratified in 2021, and the highest average rate in more than 30 years. The recent union wins at the bargaining table reflect increased worker militancy, labor relations observers said. Last year saw the most worker strikes in nearly 20 years.”

Graduate Unions: Why Student Workers at University of California, Temple, More Are Striking: “Academic workers are having a moment. This past year, 2,500 NLRB petitions were filed for union elections and graduate workers at MIT, Yale, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, Boston University, and the University of Chicago represented the six largest. And graduate workers weren’t the only ones organizing: Non-tenure contingent faculty mobilized at Howard, NYU, The New School, Fordham, and Rutgers. Union organizing has also spread to the University of Southern California, Syracuse University, the University of Illinois Chicago, Washington State, Barnard, Dartmouth, Wesleyan, and the University of Alaska, among other campuses.”

A Surprising (and Growing) Gender Gap in the Most Dangerous Jobs: “By almost every measure, the American workplace is getting safer. But one troubling type of injury is on the rise: violent attacks that cause injuries so severe that the victim misses a day of work. And the increase has come almost entirely in attacks against women. That’s a deadly serious finding, and one we did not expect. After all, our analysis began with the intriguing discovery that the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses includes a category called 'self-tasered—unintentional.' This database of workplace injuries is incredibly detailed, offering a concise but wide-ranging portrait of tragedy and mishap in the American workplace. It tells us how often workers are strangled by another person and how often they are caught in running machinery.”

The Minimum Wage Fight That Will Define the Decade: “'When this legislation was originally proposed, we would be well on our way to the $15 minimum wage,' said William Spriggs, chief economist for the AFL-CIO and a Howard University professor. 'I think all of us are reevaluating what we think that number should be.'”

AFL-CIO’s Department for Professional Employees Sets Legislative Agenda: “The Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO, with which a dozen entertainment industry unions are affiliated, has set its policy agenda for the 118th Congress, centered on creating diverse talent pipelines, incentivizing diversity in hiring and strengthening creative professionals’ workplace rights. 'Union professionals in the arts, entertainment, and media industries remain committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion,' said DPE President Jennifer Dorning. 'The updated DEI policy agenda for the 118th Congress allows union creative professionals to continue building off gains made in collective bargaining that provide for more inclusive, representative industries.'”

The Case for Business Leaders to Work Collaboratively with Unions: “Democrats in Congress have reintroduced the Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, a bill that would create new protections for workers seeking to unionize. Last week, witnesses appeared to testify to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, including Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO. Speaking in favor of the PRO Act, Shuler’s testimony also included an invitation to workplace leaders: 'Unions and the labor movement stand ready and willing to work together with businesses all across this country: innovating together, becoming more skilled and efficient, and creating better outcomes for everyone,' she said. As interest in unions among professional and desk-based workers continues to rise, navigating the relationship with organized labor is an increasingly important skill for leaders in industries like tech, media, and education. And amidst this groundswell of union organizing, employers have an opportunity to rewrite the traditionally adversarial relationship between labor and management, argues Shuler. We spoke with Shuler about what that shift might look like. Here are excerpts from our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity.”

‘SNL’ Strike Threat Lifted for Now as Postproduction Workers Reach Tentative Deal with Management: “An impasse on contract negotiations that led to postproduction workers threatening a strike has been resolved, at least for now, as labor and NBCUniversal management have reached a tentative deal. The workers, who had been negotiating their first contract as a union allied with the Motion Picture Editors Guild (MPEG), had previously set a deadline of April 1. If a deal wasn’t reached by that date, workers vowed to strike the live NBC comedy series.”