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Northeast Ohio labor strikes may not lead to substantial change

A striking member of United Auto Workers Local 1005 walks in front of the General Motors Metal Fabrication Division in Parma Sep. 17, 2019.
Carter Adams
Threats of job action this week may mean Northeast Ohio will soon see the labor unrest the rest of the county is experiencing.

Threats this week of job actions in Northeast Ohio raise a question about whether the region may see more of the labor unrest that’s happening around the country.

Unions are demanding higher wages and better working conditions, but experts worry the chance for substantial change is minimal.

Akron Metro RTA employees are threatening to walk off the job Thursday. In Ashtabula County, the Geneva teachers union authorized a 10-day strike notice.

John Russo is the visiting scholar at the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University. He worries these strikes popping up across the country won’t garner the kind of power needed to win demands, even after the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way people think about essential workers.

“But if it’s just temporary and people just were very nice to working people and essential workers during the pandemic, and now they want to forget about it then things might not be so good,” Russo said.

He says labor laws in the United States make it almost impossible for organized labor to improve conditions, but he says there’s a chance some of these strikes may lead to better wages and benefits.

Despite the country seeing an increase in strikes, Russo doesn’t think this will be the new normal.

Russo on federal labor laws

“I don’t think it necessarily is going to an impetus for union organizing, okay? And the reason for that is not because of unions, it’s that the law is so bad. The labor law in America is the worst law in any industrial country,” he said.

Russo thinks some employers will bend to the will of unions and offer better wages and benefits, while others will turn to new technology that lessens the need for workers.

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.