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Photo courtesy of Amine M'Siouri from Pexels

October was deemed #Striketober in lieu of thousands of workers going on strike all over the nation, and their work is far from over.

From companies like John Deere to Kaiser, thousands of workers have expressed their grievances by going on strike. According to Cornell University’s Labor Action Tracker, there have been at least 178 strikes so far this year, and the number is expected to rise.

Amid the detrimental impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have become desperate to retain their pre-pandemic labor force. That, however, is unlikely to happen anytime soon. A record 4.3 million people quit their jobs in just August alone, many of them in search of improved benefits and working conditions.

The unemployment rate fell to 4.8% during the month of October, as employers increased wages across nearly every industry rose. A great deal of employers began offering sizeable bonuses to anyone who graciously joins their staff.

So, what exactly sparked this influx of strikes in the month of October?

Many Americans have become discontent with the growing wealth disparities
in the nation. According to americansfortaxfairness.com, there are over 600 billionaires in the United States alone. Their net worth, amounting to roughly $4.6 trillion as of August, is more than the net worth of the bottom 50% of Americans.

The value of the federal minimum wage hasn’t been adjusted to fit rising inflation in the American economy. Its value has dropped more than 17% since 2009, making it nearly impossible for many employees across the nation to make ends meet. Regular salary jobs, as well, often aren’t adjusted to the market. As prices continue to rise for housing,

food and other vital necessities, countless Americans are making proportionally less and less as time goes on. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers were forced to work longer hours in unsafe conditions or lose their jobs. Kellog workers on strike in Michigan told their local news that they worked 16-hour days, seven days a week just for Kellog to offshore many of their jobs.

As corporations grow and billionaires multiply, many big businesses today can replace unskilled labor across borders via offshoring. Foreign workers are more likely to accept jobs for less pay, effectively making American labor disposable.

Thus, the strikes were inevitable and necessary. Companies like John Deere to even some production sets in Hollywood were compelled to ensure better pay and conditions for their employees or risk watching their entire workforce walk away.

It’s a phenomenon that is historically observable. After the Black Plague, Europe’s work force was drastically diminished. Since labor was scarce, workers were able to demand better labor conditions — employers could either ensure an improved work environment or lose their business.

Why are strikes so important?

Workers have power in numbers. While America may, at times, seem like an oligarchy fronting as a democracy, with big corporation elites and career politicians at the top of the food chain, this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.

The truth is nothing could be accomplished without the proletariat. After all, what is a business without those creating the product?

So, when workers strike for livable wages and increased benefits, employers should feel obliged to at least compromise with them. This is especially important, post-pandemic, when the workforce has been drastically diminished and labor has, therefore, become more valuable.

Strikes are an integral part of regulating larger businesses and ensuring they play by the rules of the wage worker. They are necessary to ensure better pay for employees. If businesses cannot afford to provide better pay or implement better conditions, it is obvious that they shouldn’t be open in the first place.

As the spookiest season of the year comes to a close, scary labor conditions persist. Strike on.

Kaelyn New is a staff writer.

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