A new 'Striketober'?

Last year, a movement of labor actions was deemed "Striketober" online and on social media as union workers in healthcare and other industries walked off the job or threatened to do so. Now the possibility of another "Striketober" looms amid increased union activity over issues such as working conditions, pay, benefits and staffing, The Guardian reported Sept. 26.

Labor activity has increased during the pandemic. According to Ithaca, N.Y.-based Cornell University's labor action tracker, there were 10 labor actions involving workers in the healthcare and social assistance sector during the first six months of 2021. That compares to 21 during the same period this year. Additionally, a Gallup poll conducted in August showed the highest support for labor unions in almost six decades.

Unions representing workers at healthcare facilities have called strikes or threatened to, and that appears to be a trend that will continue headed into October.

One of the largest healthcare strikes this year was in Minnesota. About 15,000 members of the Minnesota Nurses Association reached the last day of their three-day strike Sept. 14 at hospitals in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports.

In California, members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers began their open-ended strike Aug. 15 at Kaiser Permanente. The strike, which expanded to Hawaii in late August, was ongoing as of Sept. 26.

And members of Communications Workers of America Local 1168 and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East have authorized negotiation leaders to call a strike at Buffalo, N.Y.-based Kaleida Health. The unions represent about 6,300 workers at Kaleida Health's Buffalo General Medical Center, Oishei Children's Hospital, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, HighPointe on Michigan, DeGraff Medical Park, and various community-based clinics, according to a Sept. 15 union news release shared with Becker's. Kaleida Health has about 10,000 employees total.

The strike authorization vote does not mean a strike will occur, and unions must give Kaleida Health a 10-day notice if a strike is called. Meanwhile, the health system said it continues strike contingency planning.

"Strikes appear to be increasing as we head into the fall," Johnnie Kallas, project director for the Cornell University labor action tracker told The Guardian. "These strikes are being led by workers in the service sector. Starbucks workers have organized over 70 strikes so far this year in response to poor working conditions and employer retaliation. Over the past month, thousands of healthcare workers and educators have gone on strike to protest understaffing, low pay and poor conditions for patients and students."

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