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Boycotts Not Following Strikes

When workers at Frito-Lay and other companies strike, do consumers stop buying their products?

Press and Media's picture
Nov 09, 2021

This article was written by Dom DiFurio at The Dallas Morning News

After a prolific month of work stoppages at U.S. companies, a new poll reveals that American consumers change purchasing behavior very little when workers strike.

Tens of thousands of workers walked off job sites across the country in recent months, demanding better working conditions and increased benefits.

The movement grew so large by October that it was dubbed “Striketober” by labor unions and some media outlets. The work stoppages happened in a variety of industries, including food, film, manufacturing and health care.

Earlier in the summer, more than 800 workers at Plano, Texas-based Frito-Lay’s Topeka, Kan., plant went on strike for 19 days demanding an end to forced overtime and 84-hour workweeks. By October, flight attendants at one of Fort Worth-based American Airlines’ regional carriers voted unanimously to authorize a strike as well.

Workers have more leverage over their working conditions this year than at any point in recent history, experts have said.

Georgetown University professor of history Joseph McCartin told NPR recently that the leverage partially has to do with the widespread discontent being expressed by workers quitting jobs, sometimes called The Great Resignation.

“What’s unique about this moment, in a way, is that there is a labor shortage that many employers are complaining about, but it’s a labor shortage that’s largely worker-driven,” Mr. McCartin said. “Workers have been withdrawing from the labor market in dissatisfaction with the jobs that they currently have. We still haven’t returned to the job levels we had before the [pandemic] recession.”

Calls for boycotts often accompany strikes, as they did over the summer when Frito-Lay workers asked consumers to stop buying the snack manufacturer’s brands, including Doritos and Cheetos.

At the time, Democratic Kansas state Rep. Jason Probst pointed to social media chatter as evidence that the strike in Topeka may have led to an increase in “consumer consciousness.”

But the new polling suggests that most consumers aren’t interested in pressuring companies where workers allege inadequate working conditions.

Just 29% of American adults surveyed said they were “less likely” to buy products from companies where workers are striking, according to a new Morning Consult-Adweek poll. The majority of respondents, at 59%, said they were “neither more nor less likely” to buy products from companies where employees were on strike.

What’s more, very few respondents were aware of the strikes happening at companies like Netflix or Nabisco, according to the results.

The poll, however, found that Americans generally support workers who go on strike.

A majority of respondents, 56%, said they support workers striking. When broken down by ethnicity, Hispanic workers were most likely to support strikes at 68% followed by Black workers at 59% and white workers at 54%.

The poll also found a generational divide in how consumers react to these disputes. Gen Z respondents, or those born after 1997, were the least likely of all generations to purchase products from companies with striking workers, with 41% of respondents saying they would.

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