Is #StrikesGiving a Part of Your Holiday Job Search?
Let’s talk about #StrikesGiving. Don’t feel like reading? Listen here!
Job seekers who want a career in the food manufacturing industry today have unique challenges. Companies are experiencing strikes with their workers and likely won’t hire because of their union agreements. Throughout the fall months, or what has become known as “#Striketober,” #Strikesgiving, and now #Strikemas,” unionized workers went on strike for what is at the heart of “The Great Resignation.” Workers want fair pay, a flexible work schedule, and safe working conditions, among other benefits.
What’s Behind #StrikesGiving?
Finding a job in an industry where workers are striking is complicated but not impossible. The strategies to get on a company’s radar are the same, but navigating the politics can be different. Referrals are still the best way to get these jobs, and applying online works but subsequently can be more competitive. It’s good to understand the landscape because it is unique, and many applicants don’t know what happens when you land in a unionized workplace. It’s not only the hourly workers but the “professional” ranks, too.
One potential situation to be aware of is the issue of disparity in pay between employees. Some, but not all, manufacturing companies or industries have two-tiered contracts for their unionized workers. Current employees may have a different contract from the one that new hires must agree to. Agreements, where pay and benefits are inequitable across the union, have divided the workforce at many companies. Workers around the country are fighting the two-tiered contract battle; the idea of working the same job side-by-side with someone making a significant amount more is upsetting and frustrating, leading to workers going on strikes like #StrikesGiving.
Where Have Workers Gone on Strike?
One major company, John Deere, ended their strike with workers, who received significant compensation changes. Other companies that haven’t resolved their issues with workers are considering replacement workers. Currently, workers are willing to carry the spirit of #Strikemas.
Kellogg announced they would be hiring replacement workers for the workers who have not returned to work or are on strike. It won’t be easy, as hiring replacement workers goes against unionized agreements.
If you’re interested in working for these companies, you should know the issues and whether workers are still striking. Fortunately, we live in a time when one can find out a great deal about a company before interviewing or even applying for an open position. The internet and access to people who work for the company will provide information about their jobs. It’s not in your best interests if the companies are going forward with hiring replacement workers “no matter what.” It may not be clear whether replacement workers will be temporary or permanent replacements.
What will job seekers need to know before pursuing an open job where workers are striking?
- It’s essential to learn as much as you can about the job you’ll do. It helps to understand how a strike like #StrikesGiving will impact your coworkers, your company and how it will benefit your career.
- Do workers speak positively about the company despite their differences? Are they paid relatively and offered good benefits?
- Research companies to understand the culture before and after strikes or proclaimed “labor shortages.”
- What to do if you’re disenchanted with an industry you were pursuing?
What Are the Challenges of Finding a Manufacturing Job Now?
In the summer of 2021, food manufacturing company Frito-Lay mandated workers to work “suicide shifts” or 12-hour shifts, seven days a week for months at a time. Factory workers faced an overload of hours and work areas without air-conditioning. These adverse working conditions made workers susceptible to physical and mental health issues. The Frito-Lay workers went on strike from July 5 to 23, which ended with raises and a guaranteed day off.
Frito-Lay disputed charges of mandated hours and unreasonable working conditions by describing the statements made by the union as egregious. If you want to work in the factory of a specific food manufacturing company, you must not apply blindly to a job. You must understand the issues surrounding working for the company and be ready to address them during an interview.
Don’t let the holidays deter you from applying to jobs in manufacturing or any industry. Hiring to fill the labor shortage does not stop during the holidays. On the contrary, companies will be interviewing and hiring throughout the season, even the week before or after Christmas. It is a priority for them to fill positions to meet the demands of the industry.
How Effective Was the Strike?
As mentioned previously, in the case of John Deere, the striking workers were well compensated. Unionized workers are unlikely to stop striking if they are subject to 12-hour days, inflexible hours, and conditions affecting their health and well-being. As suggested earlier, you can use LinkedIn to find and contact current and past employees to tell about the company.
If you’re new to working in a unionized company or industry, you should know all you need to know about its culture. Not all companies that have unions want them. And some companies work to prevent them, especially when workers are zealous about unionizing.
New hires who enter a workplace so divided about unions can cause performance issues even if the problem isn’t work-related. You should know how unions work and understand the contract before joining a company with unionized workers. If skilled workers are unionized, there’s assumed leverage because not just anyone can do the job.
During the pandemic, unionized teachers and nurses have shown that strikes can impact many people beyond the workers, company, and industry. All of us have an interest in the outcome of any strikes, or even a threat to strike, in education or healthcare. There is a significant demand for professionals in those industries, and their actions extend to families and neighborhoods.
And the Labor Shortages?
At one point this fall, the labor shortage in the culinary industry in Lansing trickled over to Michigan State University (MSU) cafeteria services to affect on-campus students. Staff shortages were, and still are, severe, and MSU leaders asked its faculty and staff to volunteer for service in the cafeteria.
Articles reporting on the shortage documented the reactions, and responses to the call for professors to volunteer were underwhelming. Any company where unfulfilled positions exist affects the workplace culture. When interviewing for a job in a company where employees are striking, it’s a good idea to ask the interviewer how the labor shortage has affected those employees that are not on strike.
Experts are pointing out the rise in inflation is outpacing the increase in wages and erasing the efforts of hourly workers who were on strike. There is new uncertainty about how long this inflation will last and whether an individual will survive. It’s not just the manufacturing workers who have that dilemma.
What Can Every Job Seeker Learn From Recent Strikes like #StrikesGiving?
Anyone conducting a job search in any economy should be thoughtful, knowledgeable about their market, and strategic. Applying to random jobs and being willing to land anywhere does not create job satisfaction. During the pandemic, many job seekers decided not to return to positions where they were treated unfairly.
There are universal lessons everyone can learn about finding a job now and in the future.
- You must know your audience. A job candidate cannot come to an interview tone-deaf by not knowing how they feel about meeting the company’s demands. Listening is vital—hearing both sides of the issues workers are striking over will help you avoid or navigate the most acute problems.
- Researching companies is critical. Find companies where the leader is listening. Lensa CEO Gergo wrote in a LinkedIn post, “If company leadership continues to ignore their concerns, soon there will be no labor market left to appease.”
- Everyone is a replacement worker. No matter the professional level, everyone has had a predecessor at one time or another. It’s unfair for people to compare, but you’ll have to manage expectations by being yourself. Instead of making direct comparisons to your predecessor, bring your best self to any job and show how you can perform and how your talents can benefit the company.
- Research pay and negotiate accordingly. Two-tiered pay, as talked about earlier, happens all of the time when two people do the same job and are paid substantially differently. Pay differential happens regularly and, like anywhere else, causes division with the company and peers. Before starting a job search, research a position’s market rate locally, regionally, and nationally.
Strikes like #StrikesGiving are insightful. Looking for work in an industry where workers are striking can be complicated and filled with potential missteps. If you have not worked for a unionized company before, you will first need to familiarize yourself with the benefits—and drawbacks—a union can bring. Know the issues that have caused the workers to strike, whether they be two-tiered pay, or others and address them in your interview. Confirm with potential employers if the position is a temporary or permanent replacement. With a bit of research and careful forethought, you’ll be able to navigate a job hunt in a striking industry.