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Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024
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Op-Ed: Wage Wars: The unions strike back

This year saw successful strikes across multiple industries as workers show their dissatisfaction with the status quo

2023 could be remembered as the year of the union strikes, and that’s a good thing. The Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild both reached deals with Hollywood studios after months-long strikes. President Joe Biden was the first sitting U.S. president to march on a picket line, showing his support for the United Auto Workers’ strike, which resulted in the union and General Motors coming to an agreement. Striking Kaiser Permanente health workers have now also made a deal after going on strike.

This series of strikes come as the wage gap between the top 0.1 percent and the working class continues to grow. In the world of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Bill Gates, employees want to reap more of the benefits from the wealth they have helped create. It’s time their demands are heard.

The deals between striking workers and company executives feature pay increases across their respective industries. Actors and writers have gained protections against artificial intelligence, transparency in streaming viewership analytics and new residual pay systems based on streaming viewership. Striking auto workers gained pay increases and the protection of their right to strike over plant closures.

“Wall Street didn’t build this country,” Biden said at the UAW strike. “The middle class built this country, and unions built the middle class.”

These strikes highlight the increasing tensions between the top corporate executives and their employees. According to a report by the Economic Policy Institute, CEO pay has risen 1,460 percent since 1978 and the average CEO is paid 399 times that of the average worker. Meanwhile, workers’ wages have barely increased over the last few decades, even when adjusted for inflation.

This hoarding of wealth by the corporate executive elite is not sustainable and needs to be addressed. People see trickle-down economics for what it is: a façade. These strikes prove that people are fed up with the current state of employee-worker relations and the balance of power between them.

Workers deserve to share in the profits they helped create. The economy is built upon the backs of workers, who have long been owed their dues.

“You deserve what you’ve earned,” Biden said at the auto workers’ strike. “You’ve earned a hell of a lot more than you’re getting paid.”

Workers deserve fair compensation for their labor. They deserve to be able to live and thrive. They deserve to be able to provide for themselves and their families. They don’t deserve to be underpaid and struggle to make ends meet.

Workers should not struggle with housing, food and job insecurity as corporate executives buy vacation homes, yachts and private jets. Without workers, these executives would not have the wealth to live so lavishly. Without workers, these executives do not have their businesses. Without workers, there is no economy.

If corporations do not compensate their employees, unions will ensure that companies find out who really keeps them open.

The gears of the economy are moved only by the workers who keep them turning. Without them, there are no stocks to trade, no goods to buy and no wealth generated for anyone.

This is why unions are important. Unions protect and advocate for workers, empowering them to stand up to the massive corporations dominating the economy. When workers organize and work together toward a goal, they hold a power and a will not even corporate executives can break. 

Zachary Olson is a senior at the School of Communication at American University. 

This article was edited by Jelinda Montes, Zoe Bell, Alexis Bernstein and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing by Isabelle Kravis and Charlie Mennuti.

opinion@theeagleonline.com


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