MILWAUKEE — The United Auto Workers strike is the latest in a string of strikes by labor unions nationwide this summer. Right now, labor conflicts are happening at a level that has not been seen in over two decades.
The UAW workers are back on the picket line in Milwaukee. The group is part of nearly 20,000 from 20 states on strike. Susan Romano has been a UAW worker for 20 years and she says this first time she has ever gone on strike.
"Very anxious wondering what's going to happen to you or what's going to happen next,” said Romano.
Even before the UAW strike started, the US was hitting record-high numbers in days lost to work stoppages. According to the Labor Department, 4.1 million days of work were lost in August due to strikes. That is the highest in a single month since August of 2000.
But not a surprise to University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee economist professor John Heywood.
"One, is the fact is inflation has been high and workers who have a fixed amount in their contract are trying to increase that to catch up. And the other is unemployment is low and that means it is a good time to strike because you are hard to replace,” said Heywood.
In both July and August, there were 20 strikes according to the Labor Department. University of Wisconsin-Madison labor relations professor Michael Childers says strikes in one area can lead to more strikes no matter the industry.
"As workers have seen other workers stand up and say, Hey, we will. We want. What we feel like is an equitable deal, and we're willing to stop working to try to get you to negotiate to a point that we feel is fair for us,” said Childers.
Heywood says he expects the biggest impact to be in areas where a large number of workers are striking.
"At the smaller level, there is nothing good about a strike. It hurts the workers, it hurts the firms and it hurts the customers. Will be there ripple effects, yes, but they will be local. They won't bring the economy down,” said Heywood.
“We're trying to stay strong and praying that everything gets worked out,” said Romano.
The latest Gallup poll shows support for labor unions is at nearly record high with 67% of Americans approving of organized labor.