tips for surviving a strike
The strike by screenwriters has lasted more than a year. Being willing to go for so long without a regular income in a nation where the majority of people live paycheck to paycheck requires conviction and preparation.
Similar to a layoff, a worker on strike must deal with an indefinite loss of pay and benefits. Most striking employees cannot receive unemployment benefits, unlike in a layoff. Long strikes, like the one by the Writers Guild of America, are uncommon because there is a chance that strikers will exhaust their savings or fall behind on their payments.
However, because of their negative financial effects on the employer, strikes have a long history of securing better pay and working conditions for employees. That makes striking a useful tool for the workforce of today, which is affected by high inflation and worries about cutting-edge technology like artificial intelligence (AI).
If you think you might participate in a strike, start thinking of it as inevitable. You’ll feel better about helping the cause when the time comes if you can save up more money.
Leverage the strike fund of your union
Your pay will stop as soon as you go on strike. To assist members in adjusting to the loss of income during a strike, unions frequently establish strike funds. Each union has restrictions on how much money members may withdraw from the strike fund, which is supported by dues from its members.
For instance, the UAW website states that eligible union members would receive $100 per weekday from the strike fund if the UAW, which represents 150,000 workers at GM, Ford, and Stellantis, goes on strike this fall when its new contract expires. Following the eighth strike day, UAW strike pay begins.
If your employer stops contributing to the cost of your health insurance, your union might be able to assist you in maintaining your coverage. Under COBRA, a federal law that temporarily obligates employers to continue providing coverage after employment ends, striking employees may choose to maintain their health coverage on their own dime. Some unions offer financial assistance to their members to pay for these extra expenses.
There might also be additional health insurance choices. For instance, according to the union’s website, the United Steelworkers encourages its members who require coverage for ongoing medical care or serious medical conditions to use COBRA. The USW Emergency Medical Program, which offers minimal insurance coverage, is then applied to everyone else, including members and their dependents.
No union to offer assistance? Be Patient and Think
You’ll probably need to rely on savings to get you through the strike if you’re not a formal union member or if your union’s strike fund won’t fully replace your income. Therefore, it is now necessary to plan and be ready.
While you’re without a paycheck, having an emergency fund could help you pay your essential bills on time. That covers your mortgage or rent, purchases for food and utilities. To participate in strike activities, you may also need to pay for transportation, child care, and cell phone service. The ideal amount of money in your emergency fund is enough to cover your essential costs for three to six months. That may seem excessive. But because most strikes are brief, starting with a modest savings goal is acceptable.
According to the Labour Action Tracker, the majority of work stoppages in 2022 lasted less than five days. This yearly report from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labour Relations details labor protests and strikes that have taken place all over the country.
Investigate the local laws that govern who is qualified for unemployment benefits as you get ready. While uncommon, some states permit striking workers to receive unemployment benefits depending on the situation.
For instance, the New York Department of Labour states that if a strike lasts more than 14 days in New York, workers can start receiving unemployment benefits. If an employer has violated a collective bargaining agreement or started a lockout (when they bar employees from the workplace until they accept certain conditions), there may be exceptions in other states for workers.
If you no longer have access to health insurance through your union, you can choose to continue your coverage under COBRA or look for a health insurance plan on an online marketplace.
Never ignore your financial situation
No matter if you’re using up emergency funds or surviving off of strike pay, a strike might force you to reevaluate your financial priorities, including.
Reducing personal expenditures
Investigate eliminating any streaming services, memberships, subscriptions, and other costs you can do without. It makes sense if you want to continue having one or two small indulgences. However, make sure you actually use it.
Investigating new revenue streams
Sell any unused items. Choose a seasonal position or an app-based job. Picketing may fill your days, but a few hours of side work may be sufficient to cover some expenses.
Looking for community support
Spend some time learning about neighborhood resources that might be able to keep you afloat. Some neighborhood organizations can assist with paying bills, getting food, and finding mental health services. Visit 211.org if you need a place to start.
Making the barest payment
It’s not a good idea to get into credit card debt now, given how high-interest rates are. But if you have a very tight budget, using a credit card to pay for necessities might be your best bet. Make the bare minimum payment possible because failing to do so could harm your credit rating.
Using bill juggling as a last resort
Call the customer service line for your provider if you are having trouble paying your utility bills. You might be able to change your debt or begin a payment plan. You can also find out how much time you have left on each bill before paying default penalties using online resources.
Resources should be shared with other strikers
Being surrounded by other strikers while on strike may keep you motivated and enable you to save money. Exchanging child care or going grocery shopping together to buy in bulk, for instance, are all practical ways to reduce costs. The benefit of group action is that you are not acting alone.