Strike Stories


2023 was the biggest strike year in decades. We asked readers who struck last year to tell what it was like.


SAG-AFTRA vs. Hollywood

Movie and TV actors with SAG-AFTRA led a historic 118-day strike that ended Nov. 9, 2023, with a contract containing $1 billion in new wages and first-ever guidelines for artificial intelligence. Portland SAG-AFTRA Vice President Scott Rogers said the strike also demonstrated how support for unions has grown since the last actors strike 30 years ago. (He also participated in that strike, in 1992).

“I know there is more support for unions nationwide, but I’ve literally seen it in action with the support we and other unions have had during our work stoppages. I’ve never seen support like that before,” Rogers said. “People thought of actors, I think, as pampered, overpaid, rich. So we tried really hard to put out the facts this time, and I think we succeeded.” 

The facts, Rogers said, are that unless you’re an A-list actor, you probably aren’t pampered and rich. Almost 90% of SAG-AFTRA members make less than $30,000 per year. 

Rogers walked the picket line in Los Angeles, but he also helped organize local rallies so Portland actors could participate. (Workers can only picket active work sites. With no active productions in Portland, workers here couldn’t form an official strike picket line.) He spoke fondly of the “palpable support” he felt from other Oregon unions. 

“That’s why we decided then and there, whatever we could do in our personal lives, we are going to show up for all the union events. And that’s what we’ve been doing,”  he said. “I ended up showing up at a picket for nurses, which obviously has nothing to do for SAG-AFTRA, but they were all so supportive of us we were supportive of them. I think this year has been a year of the unions, really a banner year. Hopefully that continues. Everyone wins when unions win.” 


UAW vs. the Big Three

Local 492 shop chairman Grant Wagner, on strike outside the Beaverton Chrysler parts warehouse.

Local 492 shop chairman Grant Wagner, on strike outside the Beaverton Chrysler parts warehouse.

About 46,000 of the 146,000 United Auto Workers (UAW) members at General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis (Chrysler) were called to the picket line as part of an escalating strike against the “Big Three” automakers Sept. 15 to Oct. 30, 2023. By the end, the walkout had reached workers at eight assembly plants and 38 parts distribution centers in 22 states, including the Stellantis parts center in Beaverton, where workers are represented by UAW Local 492. It was the first time workers struck all three employers at once — and union leaders say it resulted in a “stunning” victory. 

Local 492 shop chairman Grant Wagner, who works in shipping and receiving in the parts warehouse, says he voted “no” on the agreement, despite the sizable wage hikes, increased retirement plan contributions, and new holidays, because he felt like workers deserved more. And he believes they will get it next time around, as long as they start getting ready now. 

“One thing I took away from it is that you’ve got to get organized. You’ve got to get militant. You’ve got to be disciplined….  I see the value of people uniting and sticking together. The strike highlighted all that to me,” Wagner said. “We have four years until we are out there again. We need to be more united and more organized than ever.”

UAW’s contracts with the Big Three expire on May 1, 2028.

Wagner said the picket line was a “roller coaster of emotions” for him, but he always felt uplifted when community members or people from other unions showed up to march in solidarity. He’s since returned the solidarity by walking picket lines with Portland Association of Teachers and SEIU Local 49 during their strikes. 


Laborers vs. The City that Works

More than 600 City of Portland workers won at least 8% wage increases after a three-day strike by Laborers Local 483 that started Feb. 2, 2023. Months before they walked out, union steward Luis Flores remembers feeling worried that workers wouldn’t want to strike at all. 

Luis Flores

“But in the end, everybody came together and supported it,” said Flores, a park technician who spent most of the strike marching outside Mt. Tabor Park. “Even the workers who were not members showed up to the strike. After everything was done, some of those people came and signed (union) cards. … The strike definitely made the local stronger.”  

Workers who weren’t involved in the union have started reaching out to stewards like Flores. Some have encouraged the local to host most events, so workers can meet each other and learn about their union rights, he said. 

The most surprising part of the strike, though, was how the city responded, Flores said. 

“Everybody in the city has city phones, and some of us have city tables. As soon as we went on strike, all of our phones were turned off,” he said. “They didn’t take our keys from us, but all the entries for the shops, they put security there. … They always talk about how we are a big family, but when it comes to stuff like this, we are like the stepchild.” 


Caregivers vs. Kaiser Permanente

Roughly 75,000 workers at Kaiser Permanente hospitals in seven states and Washington D.C. participated in a strike Oct. 4-6, 2023. The strike was organized by the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, a group of 11 local unions that bargain together over a national contract covering Kaiser workers in Oregon, Washington, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Virginia, plus Washington D.C. The coalition includes SEIU Local 49 in Oregon. 

Audrey Loera (right) with fellow striker Dawn Martin

Local 49 member Audrey Loera works as a fees and benefits support specialist in Kaiser Permanente’s Tanasbourne Dental Office. Last year, her co-workers elected her to represent 24 dental clinics on the bargaining team, and she traveled to California to participate in national negotiations. She also walked the picket line every day of the strike. 

“It was more like a block party for the majority of us,” said Loera. “Even though it wasn’t what anyone wanted to do, go on strike, we did what we needed to do as healthcare workers to put patient care first.”  

Once the coalition reached a tentative agreement, the bargaining team members helped explain the chances to workers. Loera remembers one housekeeping worker telling her that the pay increase would help her retire on time. 

“She had been working for so long because she was trying to make ends meet, and she was picking up all these extra hours so she could do it. To see that satisfaction that she could actually retire and enjoy her grandchildren, it reminded me of why I spent all those days flying back and forth to California, why we spent all those hours at the regional bargaining table, why we were doing this. … It’s about all those members that deserve so much better, and we are finally getting that.” 


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