Why 2023 was such a busy year for workers in California


This year was strong for workers in the United States.

Public support for workers across the country was high, and workers in many industries (health care, hospitality, Hollywood, and more) who went on strike made big gains.

Much of that work activity was concentrated in California. Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations reported that 392 labor actions began across the country in 2023, 171 of them in the Golden State. The state's high cost of living and broad support for unions made it a prime terrain for action.

Most of the state's strike activity took place in the Los Angeles area, where the gap between the very poor and the very rich is especially large.

I spoke with my colleague Jill Cowan, a New York Times reporter based in Los Angeles, about the state's “hot work summer.”

Here's our conversation, lightly edited.

Refresh my memory on the labor actions that took place in Los Angeles this year.

In March, Los Angeles Unified School District support staff went on a three-day strike, which seemed like the beginning of a moment, at least in Los Angeles. Our colleague Kurtis Lee and I reported on the idea that many parents, who I think might be frustrated or upset that schools closed, were actually very understanding, because they understand how difficult it is to afford to live in Los Angeles.

Then come the Hollywood strikes. The writers' strike, for the first time, brought together in solidarity writers and traditionally unionized industries, who in theory are knowledge workers but who also felt pressured and worried that their jobs were not sustainable. That really kicked things into higher gear.

Why has Los Angeles in particular been such a hot spot for labor action?

Elsewhere in the country, labor support appears renewed as it faces a long-term decline in union membership. But California and Los Angeles, specifically, had been able to buck that broader trend, and the reasons go back to the organizing of the largely immigrant workforce in Los Angeles in the 1980s and 1990s.

That era transformed California politics: Almost every powerful politician in Los Angeles has some kind of history of community organizing. Many of the most powerful leaders in Los Angeles are union leaders because they emerge through those channels. So the work here is already very strong.

The other part is that Los Angeles is just a place where inequality is really visible. San Francisco is like that too, but San Francisco is not as big as Los Angeles. And there are many working-class Angelenos who work in service, warehouse or manufacturing jobs. All those people feel how difficult it is to survive in Los Angeles.

The strikes have definitely drawn attention to that issue, but have they gotten workers better contracts?

I think the feeling is that they are effective. Employers, companies are seeing that these job actions go on for a long time and can really disrupt operations.

What do you think is going to happen in 2024? Are we going to have even more labor actions, even more strikes?

I think it just depends on the contracts that are coming up. I think the new solidarity we've seen among workers across industries (like the way nurses and teachers showed up on writers' strike pickets) will definitely be something that lasts.

Today's tip comes from Margret Caruso, who lives in Redwood City. She recommends a vacation to the Central Coast:

“A September trip to Pajaro Dunes, with its starry night sky and shorebird-filled beaches, was the perfect launching pad for magical Monterey Bay diving; a boat tour of Elkhorn Slough, where we were amazed by the number of sea otters and seals, as well as sea lions, cormorants, and a peregrine falcon; whale watching from Moss Landing; and the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk. A walk along the cliffs at Wilder Ranch near Santa Cruz, where we saw whales along with seals and sea otters, was the highlight of a day of beach birding along Highway 1 and tide pools in Half Moon Bay (and a perfect birthday outing). “.

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We will share more in future editions of the newsletter.

As 2023 comes to a close, tell us what the best part of your year was. Did you have a big birthday, start a new job, or adopt a pet? Email us at CAtoday@nytimes.com. Please include your name and the city you live in.

After extensive research, food writers and editors at New York Times Cooking and The Times have compiled their list of the year's best cookbooks, with a sizable cohort of California chefs and recipe developers represented.

In “Love Is a Pink Cake,” Claire Ptak, a California-born baker, puts a West Coast twist on traditional British sweets with delicious results. “Rintaro,” the first cookbook from Sylvan Mishima Brackett, chef and owner of Izakaya Rintaro in San Francisco, draws on the Japanese-Californian fusion cuisine he has popularized at his restaurant.

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