Work Shift: Labor’s Big Wins in Five Charts


This year has been a big one for the US labor movement: From Detroit to Hollywood, strikes, picket lines, and record-breaking contracts have dominated headlines. My colleagues Josh, Laura, and I set out to determine whether all the talk of a “hot labor summer” has shown up in the numbers.

As it turns out, unions really have won big in 2023.

Unions in 2023 Secure Highest Raises in Decades

Average first-year raises across hundreds of union contracts

Source: Bloomberg Law

Note: Data through September 2023. The figures represent an average of first-year wage increases in ratified labor contracts and do not include lump-sum payments. Bloomberg Law's database includes approximately 800 to 900 contracts each full year. Data for 2023 includes 425 contracts.

Unions across the country have won their members 6.6% raises on average so far this year — the biggest bump in more than three decades, according to an analysis by Bloomberg Law. And that figure doesn’t even include the historic agreements reached by the United Auto Workers with the Big Three carmakers after weeks of bare-knuckle negotiations.

Autoworkers Nab Biggest Wage Gains in Decades

Annual wage increases for United Auto Workers

Sources: Bloomberg Law, UAW, company press releases

Note: New contracts were ratified in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019. The 2023 to 2026 data is based on the tentative agreements between the UAW and Ford, GM and Stellantis which include a 25% wage increase over the life of the contracts and 11% over the first year. These tentative agreements still have to be approved by UAW union members.

Wages are a big part of compensation, and easy to compare across industries, but they're only a fraction of what’s hammered out in collective bargaining agreements. The UAW, for example, also secured cost-of-living pay increases on top of pay raises, more generous retirement benefits, and the elimination of lower tiers of pay, which translates into a huge boost for those who currently make the least.

Writer’s Strike Resulted in Biggest Wage Gains This Century

Annual wage increases for Writers Guild of America membes

Source: Bloomberg Law

Note: New contracts were ratified in 2001, 2004, 2008, 2011, 2014, 2017, 2020 and 2023.

In addition to higher wages, Hollywood writers represented by the Writers Guild of America won concessions on residual pay for reruns on streaming services and protection against artificial intelligence.

Kaiser Workers Won Largest Wage Increases in Decades

Annual wage increases for Kaiser Permanente workers

Sources: Bloomberg, Bloomberg Law, SEIU-UHW

Note: The wage increases are for Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions workers in California, where most members are based. New contracts were ratified in 2000, 2005, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2019. No agreement was reached for the period ranging Oct. 2018 to Oct. 2019. The 2023 to 2026 increases are part of a tentative agreement that still has to be approved by union workers.

Healthcare workers represented by the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions won streamlined training and hiring practices to help bolster staffing and provisions to protect against outsourcing, alongside a boost to hourly pay rates.

Approval for US Labor Unions Is Up from Recession-Era Lows

Share of Americans who of approve of unions

Source: Gallup

Note: Survey of 1,014 US adults conducted August 1-23, with a margin of error of ±4 percentage points.

All of these fights have been buttressed by strong public support for unions. Public approval for US unions last year was up to a 57-year high, though has since dipped slightly. A solid majority of Americans polled by Gallup said they sided with screenwriters, actors, and auto workers in their disputes.

Still, the share of US workers who are members of a union hit an all-time low last year. What I’m watching for next: Will these historic wins reverse organized labor’s decades-long decline?


“I’m anti-regulation by DNA, but this is an area where I think the federal government ought to act responsibly and prudently.”
Brad Newman
A Baker McKenzie partner who leads the firm’s AI practice
In a Senate hearing, he urged Congress to set rules on the technology based on the level of risk to Americans.

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