Oregon labor is still strike ready


On January 27, over 100 trade unionists gathered for the first-ever Oregon Strike School, a day-long training focused on building stronger and more effective contract campaigns and powerful strike threats throughout Oregon labor. With attendees from over 30 different unions from across Oregon’s economy, it was clear that our movement isn’t satisfied with the history-making action of 2023. In fact, based on the energy and the focus at Strike School, and what we continue to see in the first few months of 2024, last year’s labor action was just the beginning.

In my article last month, I highlighted how strikes and collective action reached incredible heights in 2023. We saw double the number of workers who went on strike in 2022, the highest seen in over a decade. And countless other groups of workers built powerful, strategic, and credible strike threats as well, winning big before needing to strike. 

Just over the last 12-18 months, we’ve seen nurses and health care workers win big using a multi-faceted strategy including legislative victories, strike threats, and powerful and well-timed strikes, all with a backdrop of constant new organizing. We’ve seen public service workers and woodworkers win big by using their most powerful weapon. We’ve seen autoworkers wage an inspirational campaign that not only won a game-changing contract, but has been the spark for new organizing throughout the automobile industry and supply chain. We’ve seen building trades unions build some of the most credible strike threats that I’ve seen in my career, and winning big because of it. We’ve seen actors and writers around the country take on powerful corporations and CEOs, spotlighting the real fears and concerns about artificial intelligence disrupting their industry and undermining their jobs. We’ve seen hundreds of thousands of package delivery and warehouse workers leverage their collective power in Oregon and across the country to win a historic agreement at UPS. At the end of 2023, we saw the first teachers’ strike in Portland’s history drawing national attention to the need for more robust funding for public education and achieving the schools our children deserve. Last month, we saw graduate employees at the University of Oregon use the threat of a well-organized strike to win a historic contract. And right now we’re seeing more healthcare professionals say “enough is enough” in Lane County, walking the line for a fair contract and higher education workers across the state holding practice pickets as their contract campaign heats up.   

This brief summary showcases something really important. Strikes — and well-organized, credible strike threats — work. They win life-changing contracts.

Amidst this excitement and momentum, we must never lose sight of just how unfair and imbalanced the economy is as the working class continues to be squeezed by inflation, the lack of affordable housing, the student debt crisis, all while facing hostility and backlash from the multi-billion dollar union-busting industry every time we try to organize unions. Understandably, working people are looking to see who’s fighting for them, who’s on their side. 

And when they see the labor movement consistently in the streets, in state legislatures, and at bargaining tables holding the line for our shared values, it comes as no surprise that we’re seeing historic union favorability statistics and nine out of 10 young people supporting our movement. 

This is our time to push back with every ounce of our being on the rigged economic system and win what’s ours from the wealth our labor creates. This is the moment to strategize, to dig deep, and to build the strongest contract campaigns our movement has ever seen. And as we do that, it won’t just be our movement that is better for it. The working class and our democracy will be better for it as well. See you on the picket line!   


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