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The Strike Threat Gets the Goods


Striking gets the goods. Even when you don’t actually have to go on strike. No one will ever remember this moment, when the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls barely avoided a strike after the company caved on wage and hour issues. This was a plant devastated by COVID in the early months of the pandemic. The workers–with 98% voting yes–authorized a strike a few days ago. That definitely got attention. What is getting far less attention is that the United Food and Commercial Workers which represent those workers came to an agreement with the company. The very limited information out there makes it seem satisfactory. In any case, workers have now decided not to strike. This is not a bad thing. There’s a piece of the labor left–those who want to believe in the IWW syndicalist revolution model that is always far more dream than reality–that striking itself is good and that compromises to not strike are bad. Business unionism baby!

But that’s just not true, or not as a rule anyway. Strikes are scary and they can be lost. If you can threaten to strike and then the company caves and you keep getting paid, but now you get paid more and you win other gains, that’s the outright ideal option. No one except for ideologues actually want to strike. So this is good, at least to the extent that one can glean information on the settlement.

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