In California, we have another example of how the American Middle Class Is Dying: Hollywood isn’t the only industry in California unhappy with its employers these days.
Over 11,000 Los Angeles city workers announced a plan to strike, hoping to “shut down” the city, according to one union president.
David Green, SEIU Local 721 executive director and president stated, “The message we’re sending is that our workers are just fed up. They’ve reached a breaking point. And we need these folks in the city to come back to the table for the good of the city.”
Although, the union says it is open to negotiations and plans to meet the city administrators at the bargaining table as early as next week.
While many L.A. unions have come close to striking, they’ve been able to resolve grievances with the city to keep it up and running.
Local 721 will be breaking a long-held streak of peace between workers and the city. This strike will be the first of its kind for the union in more than 40 years.
Local 721 Joins Other Strikes in L.A. Area
The union is comprised of people working in the public sector including those in hospitals, foster care, mental health, courts, law enforcement, libraries, street services, beach maintenance, sanitation, water treatment, parks services, and watershed management.
According to the union’s website, “The hard work of SEIU Local 721’s members keeps some of America’s largest counties and world-class cities running – including Los Angeles, Ventura, Riverside and Santa Barbara, as well as municipalities like Azusa, Beaumont, Palm Springs, Pasadena, San Fernando and Santa Ana, among others.”
The over 95,000 that make up Local 721 will join the 170,000 actors and 11,500 screenwriters currently on the picket lines, along with the thousands of hotel housekeepers, receptionists, and cooks in Los Angeles who have intermittently gone on strike since July over wages and benefits.
Hospitality Workers Also on Strike
Hotel workers picketed over the weekend in Santa Monica – one of L.A.’s most upscale beach cities – where tensions rose outside of the Fairmont Hotel, a ritzy hotel on Wilshire Boulevard just steps from the beach.
The price for a room at the Fairmont usually starts around $700 and runs upward of $4,000 for the premier bungalow. Workers say they make less than $250 a day and demanded more money and benefits.
“The bare minimum they deserve is to be able to work to live, not just survive,” said a protester named Victoria.
Among the demands the union is hoping to solidify is an immediate $5 hourly raise for its workers, who earn $20 to $25 an hour.
“This is the bottom of the middle class,” Rev. Jim Conn of the Church in Ocean Park said. He was among those on the picket line. “If they get $30 an hour, that’s still barely into the middle class and it means that they’re barely able to afford an apartment in LA.”
Union officials said a survey of its members revealed 53 percent of them said they moved in the past five years or have plans to move due to housing costs in Los Angeles.
A Growing Trend
Astronomical rents in California, and particularly the Los Angeles area, make it likely one of the toughest places for hourly workers to earn a livable wage.
However, the discontent among the working class is not unique to the west coast.
Some 323,000 workers have already gone on strike in 2023, according to Bloomberg Law data, making it the busiest year for strikes since 2000.
According to a report in the Washington Post, July was one of the busiest months for strikes in three decades, reflecting growing public support for unions and increased worker leverage in an era of low unemployment, as tens of thousands of workers have pushed employers for higher wages to keep up with high inflation.
There seems to be a disconnect between what workers claim they deserve and corporate earnings. Workers say they are struggling to make ends meet as the companies that they work for have raked in enormous profits.
However, employers attest they are trying to make up for the lost income during COVID shutdowns and bracing for a potential recession.
Still, what cannot be denied is that the middle class, which once made up a majority of the population in America, seems to be dissolving at an alarming rate. And that should worry everyone.
Jennifer Galardi is the politics and culture editor and opinion writer for 19FortyFive.com. She has a Master’s in Public Policy from Pepperdine University and produces and hosts the podcast Connection with conversations that address health, culture, politics, and policy. In a previous life, she wrote for publications in the health, fitness, and nutrition space. In addition, her pieces have been published in the Epoch Times and Pepperdine Policy Review. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.