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The ‘great resignation’, ‘worker uprising’, and ‘Striketober’: What is happening?

Rich Monje  |  Issue: November 1, 2021
Cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz showing farm worker as a bridge holding up trucks
Cartoon appears courtesy of Lalo Alcaraz & Andrews McMeel Syndication. All rights reserved.

In August we saw 4.3 million U.S. workers, almost 3 percent of the entire American workforce, quit their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since the beginning of 2021, seven million workers have left their jobs.

October has been marked by a wave of strikes (or near strikes) involving thousands of workers across the country, including John Deere, Nabisco, Kellogg, as well as distillery workers in Kentucky and 60,000 members of IATSE (International Alliance of Teathrical Stage Employees). This is a trend that began years before the pandemic.

Economists, labor leaders and pundits are scrambling to explain “the new phenomena” and lead this movement. Clearly there are as many reasons as there are individuals acting by leaving their jobs or participating in collective activity whether organized by existing organizations or not.

Everyone wants to attribute this “new” movement to their organizational efforts. The pandemic raised to a higher level the personal and objective conditions that workers live and work in under the capitalist system. A growing trend of resistance to those conditions has increased over the last few decades. Workers (especially “essential” workers) have become keenly aware of their conditions of work and their value from the point of view of the corporations and the system.

The workers have become profoundly aware of the value of the lives of their grandparents, parents and families in their communities to themselves recognizing no one will care for them and their children but themselves. Workers lost hundreds of thousands of their relatives and friends to a system unprepared to protect them. This can accelerate the growing consciousness of our class identity.

The battle to articulate the demands of these movements and shape the vision and the program of the broader movement of the working class is continuing to increase in intensity.

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