Tight U.S. job market triggers strikes for more pay

"It is just appalling that they would treat you as heroes and not pay you accordingly."

New York Attorney General Letitia James cheered on striking workers outside a Buffalo hospital over the weekend.

The Democratic official said she found it appalling that their employer, Mercy Hospital, wouldn't raise their salaries.

"And I stand with the laborers and I stand with the workers who represent the middle class which has been hollowed out and I urge this hospital to negotiate with them in good faith and put them back to work."

From hospitals in upstate New York, to tractor manufacturer John Deere in Iowa, to Kellogg cereal and food plants in Michigan and Nebraska, thousands of workers are off the job and on strike across the United States demanding higher pay.

"We are doing what we needed to do, standing up for ourselves, standing our ground."

According to the Cornell University Labor Action Tracker at least 176 strikes have been launched so far in 2021.

Fueling much of it: rising costs, but stagnant wages.

Many union organizers say their members were deemed essential during the COVID-19 crisis - but treated as though they were disposable by profitable companies.

"Me and my brothers and sisters, with the union have all been here since the pandemic started, working 12-hour shifts."

Jason Schultz is a forklift driver at a Kelloggs plant in Omaha, who went on strike at the start of October. The union said the company proposed cuts to benefits and vacation pay.

"I mean we gave them everything we had and now they want to take it away from us."

Kellogg said its compensation and benefits for U.S. cereal plant employees were among the industry's best.

At John Deere, ninety percent of the hourly workers voted to reject the company's offer of a new contract last week and went on strike.

Unions are hoping that they have additional leverage as companies face severe labor shortages. A record number of Americans quit their jobs in August.

Helping fuel the hopes of labor leaders: Their view that they have a staunch ally in the White House. President Biden welcomed union reps last month.

"When unions win, workers across the board win."

One major strike that may have been averted for now: a union representing some 60,000 behind-the-scenes film and TV workers reached an agreement to boost benefits with production studios.

But members have yet to vote on the new agreement.

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