Recently, the NY Times published an article with the headline “Amid Strikes, One Question: Are Employers Miscalculating?” They did miscalculate, but the article missed a key reason why: strikes are much harder to break when the underlying workforce is unstable.
If we remember the first wave of strikes, which occurred in very high turnover businesses, such as fast-food (even higher end), shipping (e.g., Amazon), and higher education (which has a built-in end date, graduation), it is clearer why these strikes were, on the whole, not that successful*. It’s harder to win strikes when your workers you’re trying to unionize are likely to leave anyway. But when it comes to highly skilled** labor, whether it be blue collar or white collar, workers will be much less likely to leave those professions–and professions is the key word here–because they’re invested in that job. The flip side of this is that it’s harder to replace these workers.
This isn’t the only reason employers underestimated labor, but, until very recently, employers were fighting on far more favorable ground. With this new wave of strikes, the field, if not level, is tilted far less towards employers.
*And when they were initially, businesses were able to regroup and defeat the union.
**Note I wrote highly-skilled, not unskilled. Even supposed ‘unskilled’ jobs require some training and skill.