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What Strikes and ‘Quits’ Say About US Labor’s Resolve

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After decades of declining power, US workers are showing renewed resolve. Employees at unionized companies authorized strikes last year at a rate rarely seen in recent times, and nonunion workers are voting with their feet, fueling a labor market reckoning that’s become known as the Great Resignation. The question is whether this amounts to a significant shift in the employee-employer power balance or just a blip.

There were strikes in 2021 at unionized workplaces including those of Deere & Co. and Kellogg Co., non-union walkouts at companies such as Activision Blizzard Inc. and McDonald’s Corp., and high-profile unionization campaigns at top US companies, including a landmark victory at a Starbucks Corp. store in Buffalo, New York. This year, tech workers at the New York Times, staff at more than 100 additional Starbucks cafes and thousands of employees at an Amazon.com Inc. warehouse in the New York City borough of Staten Island voted to unionize. (Workers at another Amazon warehouse nearby voted down the idea.) As part of the Great Resignation -- or the Great Reassessment, depending on whom you ask -- a record 4.54 million workers left their jobs in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracked historically elevated “quits” levels throughout 2021.