The Summer Heat Brings a Spike of Strikes

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Attorney Harrison Oldham



In addition to the apparently never-ending summer heat, a spirit of labor unrest is sweeping across California, with over 11,000 Los Angeles city workers staging a 24-hour strike on August 8, 2023. This surge in worker activism is mirrored by a rising number of strikes across the region, affecting Hollywood, hotel workers, and more, as labor unions unite to demand more from their employers.


The Los Angeles city workers’ walkout was fueled by the worker’s attempt to voice concerns about perceived unfair practices by the city management.   The city workers’ work stoppage joins more than 11,500 writers, nearly 65,000 actors, and 15,000 hotel workers who are participating in collective labor movements across various sectors.


The city workers, including sanitation employees, traffic officers, and airport personnel, initiated their first “unfair labor practices” strike in over four decades, aiming to send a message to city management. Union members began picketing at city hall and the airport as they protested against what the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 721 claims is a refusal by city management to engage in good-faith negotiations and other alleged labor violations that restrict employee and union rights.


This strike, supported by 98% of the union members’ approval, is accompanied by an Unfair Labor Practices charge filed with the Los Angeles Employee Relations Board. The charge alleges actions such as retaliation against union-affiliated employees and interference with the union’s bargaining power, citing a violation of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. The timeline for filing such charges is controlled by California law, which requires them to be submitted within six months of the alleged violation.


Responding to the strike, the mayor of Los Angeles Karen Bass, asserted that the city workers deserve fair contracts and emphasized that the city has been negotiating in good faith with SEIU 721 since January.  She assured the public that essential services like public safety, homelessness, and housing services, and public library operations would not be disrupted by the strike. However, certain services, including sanitation, traffic, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) operations, and some recreational facilities, might experience delays or closures.


SEIU Local 721 provided new outlets with documentation allegedly supporting the claimed unfair labor practice filings, revealing allegations of interference by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) in the union’s representation of bargaining unit employees. The filing accuses LAWA of attempting to alter recycling employees’ schedules to reduce overtime costs, which has resulted in reduced compensation.


This surge of labor activism coincides with significant strikes in other sectors. Hollywood has been deeply affected, with the Writers Guild of America on strike since May 2, advocating for pay increases and minimum staffing rules for TV and film writers. Similarly, actors belonging to the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) union began striking last month, echoing concerns for equitable compensation, and working conditions. The entertainment industry is a cornerstone of California’s economy, responsible for over 700,000 local jobs and $70 billion in in-state wages.


This latest chapter in the ongoing labor unrest also aligns with previous labor strikes. Earlier this year, the United Teachers of Los Angeles organized an 80,000-strong teacher’s strike, advocating for higher pay and leading to the closure of Los Angeles Unified School District schools for three days.


In this complex web of strikes, the city workers’ labor action stands as a testament to the growing resolve of workers to demand more from their employers.  Although it may be hot, and the days might be long, we are seeing a level of commitment to demanding labor equality that could usher in a new era of labor relations across the country.


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About Harrison Oldham

Harrison grew up in Mansfield, Texas. He attended Texas A&M University for his bachelor’s degree, where he met his wonderful wife, Kelsey. After graduating magna cum laude from Texas A&M, he attended SMU Dedman School of Law, graduating with honors in 2012. Today, Harrison and his wife live in Dallas, Texas with their son, Teddy.

Since graduating from SMU Law, Harrison has worked exclusively in the field of business law. He has spent time in private practice and in-house, working with clients of every size; from single person startups to Fortune 250 companies. Today his practice focuses on serving the diverse needs of businesses and individuals throughout Texas. You can learn more about Harrison by visiting his website, at: http://lonestarbusinesslaw.com/.

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