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UAW, Hollywood strikes: Workers 'taking inspiration from each other,' SEIU president says

The UAW is expanding its strike against General Motors (GM) and Stellantis (STLA). Autoworkers are still striking Ford (F), but the will not widen the scope of the strike because progress has been made in negotiations. The summer saw lots of labor activity, Hollywood actors and writers going on strike and Teamsters getting a new deal from United Parcel Service (UPS). Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry says workers are saying "enough is enough. You're doing better as a company, I need to do better as a working person in this country." When asked if labor unions are being more active now because the labor market is so tight, Henry says it's a different conversation. Henry points out that workers are taking on economic risk when they go on strike. "I think what is happening across the economy is workers are taking inspiration from each other," Henry says.

For more expert insight and the latest market action, click here to watch this full episode of Yahoo Finance Live.

Video transcript

- It's such an interesting moment in time for the US labor market, Mary, because, yes, we can talk about these strikes in Detroit with autoworkers. But as you know, Mary, there are strikes going on across so many different kinds of companies and industries and sectors, so autoworkers but also airline pilots, UPS workers, Hollywood actors and writers. I know that's a lot of different sectors and industries and markets, Mary. But do you think there's any kind of unifying theme there that's some explanation of why we see this rise of organizing activity?

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MARY KAY HENRY: Absolutely. Companies are generating record profits. And they need to be invested in the workers that carried us through the pandemic, that are moving through extreme heat and continuing to make our airports run, as the service workers who do baggage handling and cabin cleaning do every day in our nation's airports.

Starbucks workers are trying to organize and join a union because that's a very profitable company that needs to create a seat at the table and a voice on the job for those workers. And so I think the common thread between all these workers is enough is enough. You're doing better as a company. I need to be able to do better as a working person in this country and work hard for a living in one job where I can expect that my children are going to do better than I've done.

- And Mary, would another reason though, also be that union leaders are looking at the labor market, and they see a sturdy labor market, low unemployment, sub-4%, and they think now is the time to strike because now they have leverage?

MARY KAY HENRY: I actually think the conversation is different because working people have to take a huge economic risk to decide to go on strike, whether it's a tight labor market or a loose labor market. And I think what's happening across the economy is workers are taking inspiration from each other.

Autoworkers got to see UPS workers threaten a strike and have a history-making contract. Hollywood and SAG-AFTRA workers are on strike, demanding more from Hollywood. And then the UAW workers join them. We have Kaiser Permanente workers who just set October 3 and 4 for their strike date from a major health care company along the West Coast. So workers understand that they deserve better. And they're standing up together to make it happen.