Michigan labor follows growing trend of more disputes
As the United Auto Workers enter their second month without a contract with Detroit Three automakers, a series of other work stoppages are also underway in Michigan as the state navigates labor in a post pandemic economy.
In addition to the UAW, who have been on strike since September 14, workers at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and workers at some Detroit nursing homes have similarly walked off the job in hopes of a better contract.
The walk-outs come amid a series of labor disputes throughout the country. Earlier this summer, members of the Writers Guild of America, who reached a deal last month, and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists walked off the job. The United Postal Service narrowly avoided a strike with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters this summer after reaching an eleventh hour deal.
This momentum, coupled with prime economic conditions, are causing a rise in labor activity, said Marick Masters, management professor at Wayne State University.
"[Labor organizers] can use this a moment to get as much as they possibly can, recognizing that these times often come few and far between," he said.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
Over 1,000 workers at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, who are organized with the UAW, have been on strike since September 13.
Similar to the auto workers, the Blue Cross employees are asking for an elimination of a tiered wage structure that requires a worker be with the company for twenty two years before reaching the top pay scale.
Detroit Three Autoworkers
The UAW went on strike against the Detroit Three automakers on September 14. Since then, about 34,000 autoworkers across several states, have walked off the job.
The union is using a historic "stand-up" strike strategy that targets select plants across all three automakers. Historically, the UAW had chosen a single automaker to strike.
The strike has shut down six assembly plants and 38 parts distribution plants. Thirteen of the closed distribution plants and two of the assembly plants are in Michigan.
The dispute is estimated to cost the industry upwards of $7 billion dollars. Since so much of the automotive industry is concentrated in the state, Masters said the strike could have a ripple effect on the Michigan economy.
"The 34,000 workers who are now on strike at the UAW now have fewer dollars to spend, and that will depress businesses that depend on that purchasing power," he added.
Over 250 workers at three metro Detroit nursing home have been on strike since early October. The workers, who are organized with the Service Employees International Union, are asking for increased wages and benefits.
Workers at MGM Grand Detroit Casino, Hollywood Casino of Greektown, and Motor City Casino walked off the job Tuesdayafter failing to reach a tentative agreement by the time their contracts expired.
The employees, which are represented by five separate unions, represent housekeepers, retail, table and games, slots, engineering, and food and beverage workers.
The unions are asking for higher wages, increases in 401(K) contributions, and lighter workloads.
Hollywood Casino of Greektown and MGM Grand Detroit Casino have both indicated they plan to remain open in the event of a strike.
The union claims that the city of Detroit could lose up to $452,000 a day in tax revenue if the casinos close.
"The prices add up as strikes continue and are prolonged, they compound," Masters said. "[Costs] become adverse for the parties involved, as well as the general public that depends on those services - and the inconvenience of the lost thereof."