Amidst the rapidly evolving conditions of the Industrial Revolution came the growing demand for the voices of workers to be heard. With factories operating under dismal conditions, many workers began to speak up about what they expected out of their workplaces. This eventually led to the concept of the labor strike. With mass labor being detrimental to the operations of factories and mines, the workers decided that in order to get the attention of their superiors they would organize times to walk out. This form of protest quickly became demonized in many countries with labor strikes as a whole being made illegal. Later, in the late 19th and 20th centuries, many Western countries began to partially legalize strikes due to the push back the laws received from the overall worker population. Out of these struggles also came the development of unions, which served to offer representation for workers in the inner workings of the higher offices.
This past September saw the end of Nabisco’s first labor strike in fifty-two years. In early August around one thousand and fifty Nabisco employees from Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Oregon and Virginia initiated the strike after the deterioration of conditions in Portland that spread to Chicago and elsewhere. The workers were fighting for a fair contract with no concession, citing the worsening work conditions since Kraft’s takeover of the company in 2000.
Since May there had been no contract and in August the company, generally referred to as Mondelez International, proposed changes that would include longer work weeks, less pay, less worker benefits especially for new hires and less opportunity for overtime. These proposed changes came at a time when factory personnel for the company were already being worked to the bone throughout the pandemic.
At the conclusion of the strike the Bakery Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) signed a contract with Mondelez International that would ensure fair hours and overtime, a 2.25% pay hike this year with a 60 cent raise each year for the next three years and competitive worker benefits. Everything agreed upon in the 4-year accord is meant to protect workers while also ensuring the future growth and success of the company itself.
The recent Nabisco strike has sparked the conversation over the importance of labor strikes and unions. People are left to consider their options and rights in the workplace. How can unions and strikes truly serve the people?
Unions are founded to give a voice to the workers. They give representation in the higher up decisions so that those providing the labor are not forgotten or taken advantage of. When unions are ignored, and the workers treated unjustly, strikes serve as a louder voice for the workers. Strikes demonstrate to those in charge just how important the workers are and just how serious their demands are. Along with this, strikes can help gain solidarity from other workers as well as the general public in order to bring attention to a company’s faults and show those in charge that people will not stand for these injustices.
Without the workers a company will collapse. The working class keeps the company, and the country functioning, therefore when they strike the wheels stop turning and things come to a massive halt. This gets quick attention from those in charge who are in turn left making little to no profit and are threatened with the idea of no longer completing their goals.
More and more workers are beginning to understand their importance and choose to not be a cog in the machine of the industrial complex. They are beginning to understand that they deserve more than crumbs, and right now in a pandemic people are growing desperate, which is the prime time for action to take place. People have come to the realization that they are what runs the corporations, not the suits upstairs, and they refuse to be taken advantage of. With these realizations the rising threat of more and larger scale strikes is spreading with some already planned for upcoming dates such as October 15.
It is important for the working class to continue to stand in solidarity with one another and to speak loudly and proudly about their expectations. No longer can we allow for unworkable conditions to be the norm, especially in the throes of a global pandemic. Together we stand and together we can be seen and make an impact. On the backs of workers, the world goes round and therefore we have the power to bring it to a halt in order to be treated justly. We all deserve rights and that doesn’t end when we set foot into employment.