Rising Tides of Labor Unrest; A New Era of Union Power?

Organizations are witnessing a notable increase in strike activities. According to The Washington Post, “This summer (2023) already has been marked by a number of high-profile strikes, including a historic double strike paralyzing Hollywood, with 160,000 actors and 15,000 writers on picket lines. Additionally, thousands of nurses, hotel workers and university workers have gone on strike in 2023 across the nation, often seeking higher wages that have not kept up with surging inflation.” Bloomberg Law underscores the Washington Post’s assessment of today’s volatile workforce by stating that 322,000 workers have gone on strike this year. Currently, all eyes are on the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike with Ford, GM and Stellantis, as their current deal expired on Sept. 14.

Expiring Contracts Need Contingency Plans

For organizations facing a potential strike, a reactionary response will bring frustration, yielding desperation. To weather negotiations, organizations must establish a well-thought-out plan to keep business operating. Staffing agencies are prepared to analyze current processes, document the physical attributes and identify primary goals to develop a customized plan and test it thoroughly to ensure its effectiveness. Organizations should seek staffing agencies that offer customized contingency plans with the following:

  • Plan development to suggest a structure, detailed strategies and tactics while offering recommendations based on best practices and experience.
  • Plan facilitation to meet with an organization’s management team or individual members to answer questions or address specific problems.
  • Gap analysis to identify areas that still need to be addressed and suggest alternative tactics that can be more readily executed.

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Once a contingency plan has been established, organizations should carry out tabletop exercises. These exercises offer an effective way to engage teams in testing the contingency plan. It’s important to keep the tabletop exercises informal to promote conversation-driven activities where team members deliberate on their roles and responsibilities in a hypothetical strike situation. Successful outcomes of tabletop exercises include the clear dissemination — and understanding — of critical strike-related procedures such as:

  • Whom to contact in the event of an emergency.
  • Specific evacuation procedures to follow.
  • Sequences and procedures for shutting down equipment.

Conducting tabletop exercises on a quarterly to annual basis is a valuable tool for assessing whether employees who remain on the job are aware of their roles and responsibilities in the event of a strike.


From 1935 to 1953, there was a significant change in the US labor market where non-agricultural union membership grew as much as 33%; history alludes to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation and a post-WWII environment as the cause. Today, the number of jobs in the US rose from 43.5 million in January 1950 to a peak of 152.5 million in February 2020 before the pandemic. Approximately 110 million new jobs created since 1950 mean more at stake for organizations and the economy.

Staffing agencies are not transgressors; establishing a contingency plan with them is a prudent course of action. In addition, engaging with staffing agencies gives organizations and unions more time at the negotiation table without the pressure of dramatic work stoppage. A prolonged strike within today’s massive workforce can significantly impact economic and social conditions—staffing agencies offer a temporary workforce insulating society from unwanted goods and services disruptions.

Trevor Fandale

Trevor Fandale
Trevor Fandale is president of Huffmaster.

Trevor Fandale

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