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How Successful Are Worker Strikes?

Rally sign at the UTLA and SEIU99 Rally in Downtown Los Angeles
(Ashley Balderrama
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This past Friday, the union that advocates for school support staff, Service Employees International Local 99, reached a tentative deal with district representatives. Next is the vote.

The union and the district agreed to a 30% wage increase for support staff, a new average salary of $33,000 (up from $25,000) and health care benefits for part-time employees, among other demands. SEIU 99 union members will be able to vote on the agreement in-person and online starting next week. The voting results will be announced on Saturday, April 8.

The effectiveness of strikes

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While we wait to see what happens, How To LA podcast host Brian De Los Santos digs into the effectiveness of strikes and how the power of the picket line has changed over time. Massive worker stoppages became a powerful tool during the Industrial Revolution, as workers fought for better wages, hours and conditions during a time of transformational technological advances. Strikes were commonplace throughout the early 20th century. But the labor movement was hampered in 1981 when former President Ronald Reagan fired more than 11,000 air traffic controller workers who went on strike to protest low wages and long work hours. Restrictive laws were put into place, creating a new fear in workers when it came to protesting. NPR reported that it was a “serious blow to the American labor movement."

Soon after, workers faced harsh repercussions if they walked off of the job. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 222 recorded work stoppages in 1960. By 1980, there were 187. In 2010, there were just 11.

But due in part to the challenging working conditions during the pandemic, there’s been an uptick in strikes — think about workers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in 2022 or the academic workers at the University of California. And there’s also been a lot more movement to unionize across different sectors, from Amazon warehouse workers to performers at Medieval Times. A Hollywood writers’ strike is on the horizon.

“We're at a moment right now of the highest level of public support for unions in 60 years,” said Diana Reddy, a doctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the labor movement.

But there’s still risk involved.

“Striking is incredibly hard,” Reedy said. “It's terrifying. Labor law is weak and it's a lot of work. I don't know if you've ever tried to organize thousands and thousands of people to stop doing what they do daily, to risk their livelihoods to go without pay, to cause this kind of disruption. It's not something that unions do lightly.”

Listen to the rest of Brian’s conversation here.

As always, stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below — just keep reading.

We’re here to help curious Angelenos connect with others, discover the new, navigate the confusing, and even drive some change along the way.

More news

(After you stop hitting snooze)

  • Keep those rain jackets out, y’all. We’re expecting to see some light showers today until Thursday morning. And while some folks may be tired of the lack of consistent sunshine, some people do see the wonder in the rain
  • If you go to Echo Park Lake on April 1st, you might see something different. This week, the controversial fence around the area will be removed.
  • Long Beach and Pasadena are just two of the California cities that will be receiving federal funds to help mitigate the effects of climate change and pollution. My colleague Erin Stone has more on the federal government’s Reconnecting Communities Program
  • Also by the end of the week, CalFresh emergency allotments will end. Beneficiaries could lose money that they previously received for food. 
  • This week, Disney CEO Bob Iger will begin laying off 7,000 workers in order to cut $5.5 billion. My colleague John Horn has more information on what departments will be impacted by the cuts. 
  • For years, only one mobile park was fixed through a state loan program that is supposed to update or repair the 4,500 mobile parks in California. State lawmakers recently decided to revamp the program and give it a new name. But the verdict is still out on its effectiveness. 
  • More than 1,000 people have been charged for participating in the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. NPR’s Meg Anderson and Nick McMillan have the lowdown on who those rioters are and the status of their cases. 
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Wait! One More Thing...

The East West Bank's CEO Dominic Ng battles allegations from the right

Dominic Ng, CEO of East West Bank, one of the country's largest which was founded in Los Angeles to serve Chinese Americans.
(Samanta Helou Hernandez

In my colleague Josie Huang’s latest story, she explores the rise of East West Bank CEO Dominic Ng, from leading one of the most notable banks in the U.S. to national politics.

After staying out of politics for most of his life, Ng decided a few years ago to generously support President Joe Biden’s bid for the highest seat in the nation. In turn, he was asked to help bridge the relationship between the U.S. and Asia as an advisor to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. But ever since then, he’s been getting some attacks from conservative groups who doubt his loyalty to the country.

Read more about Ng’s story here.

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