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Strike Is a High-Stakes Gamble for Autoworkers and the Labor Movement

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Since the start of the pandemic, labor unions have enjoyed something of a renaissance. They have made inroads into previously nonunion companies like Starbucks and Amazon, and won unusually strong contracts for hundreds of thousands of workers. Last year, public approval for unions reached its highest level since the Lyndon Johnson presidency.

What unions haven’t had during that stretch is a true gut-check moment on a national scale. Strikes by railroad workers and UPS employees, which had the potential to rattle the U.S. economy, were averted at the last minute. The fallout from the continuing writers’ and actors’ strikes has been heavily concentrated in Southern California.

The strike by the United Automobile Workers, whose members walked off the job at three plants on Friday, is shaping up to be such a test. A contract with substantial wage increases and other concessions from the three automakers could announce organized labor as an economic force to be reckoned with and accelerate a recent wave of organizing.

But there are also real pitfalls. A prolonged strike could…



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