Hollywood writers and actors are on strike together for the first time in over 60 years, and they could be joined soon by a UAW strike at one of the “Big Three” automakers. It’s a good time to remember: the strike is one of workers’ greatest weapons.

By Caitlyn Clark, Jacobin

It’s the summer of the strike: Hollywood actors and writers are staging a massive joint walkout, UPS Teamsters have won a historic tentative agreement on the back of a strike threat, and a major labor stoppage is likely in coming months at one of the “Big Three” American automakers. What does this recent wave of activity in the labor movement tell us about the power of a strike?

Members of the Writers Guild of America East picket outside ABC headquarters

We often view power as being concentrated at the top. The billionaire capitalist class owns it all and dictate the conditions under which everyone else, forced to sell their labor to survive, must live.

While this is true, the ultrarich’s power is derived from the wealth they extract from workers. The workers they employ produce the profits that sustain capitalists’ enormous strength. This very fact is what makes the strike the most powerful tool that the working class has: by withholding their labor, strikers eat into corporate profits and force employers to make concessions. It’s a tool that workers across the country, in various industries, are now using to demand a greater share of the wealth they create.

The Screen Actors Guild — American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) launched their strike on July 14, 2023, after failing to reach a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents over three hundred fifty Hollywood production companies in collective bargaining with the union. It is the first SAG-AFTRA strike in forty-three years.

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