This month, the members of the Writers Guild of America, East and West, decided to strike for the first time in 15 years. Two weeks earlier, UPS employees represented by the Teamsters began negotiating with the company to replace an existing agreement set to expire at the end of July. If a new deal is not agreed to, these workers could strike as they did with great success in 1997, delaying the delivery of goods across the country. You may not think a Hollywood writer and a UPS driver or package handler have much in common, but the struggles they are currently facing highlight how the fight for labor rights is one that we must all engage in–regardless of what we do.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Americans were isolated due to lockdown orders, streaming TV shows and movies provided an entertaining respite to help us forget our troubles while delivery drivers diligently ensured that vital goods reached their destination so that our economy could function.
A critical outcome of the pandemic has been the growing appreciation Americans developed for long-overlooked “essential” workers. We realized how important they are to help ensure the nation’s economy can operate smoothly. In turn, these “essential” workers–and workers of all stripes–gained a renewed sense of their value–and a determination to see to it that they were treated with dignity and afforded agency in their workplaces.
This revival of the labor movement led to the rise of historical organizing campaigns at Starbucks, Amazon, and among graduate student workers at colleges and universities, to name a few. And it is under this lens that we must see what is happening in the writer’s strike and the UPS negotiations. Even though all these workers do different jobs, their fight is the same.
Writers want increased pay, better health care and pension security, and better protections so that the writing profession does not become another “gig” job. Drivers at UPS are fighting for, among other demands, increased pay for part-time employees and the elimination of a second category of drivers who handle weekend deliveries so that all drivers are treated equally. It is striking that whether a person works in a writing room or a delivery processing floor, they are sick and tired of the gradual devaluation of their labor due to corporate greed and the rush for short-term profits.
These workers aren’t just fighting for better pay and benefits for…
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