The pandemic-era union renaissance
The pandemic walloped the job market, but it might have strengthened unions.
The big picture: Even though the pandemic brought historic job losses, the share of U.S. workers who are union members rose half a percentage point to 10.8%, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Friday.
- That's because union members held onto their jobs at higher rates than non-union members. "There's some evidence that unions did a good job at protecting their members from layoffs, compared with the non-union sectors," says John Logan, a U.S. labor historian at San Francisco State University.
Why it matters: The pandemic exposed the ugly ways in which workers — especially those on the low end of the wage spectrum — are treated. And that has revitalized the appeal of unions and underscored the importance of worker voices.
What's happening: Unions have been losing power in the U.S. for decades now. But a number of factors are coming together and setting the stage for a union renaissance.
- Interest in unions has been steadily rising among workers. According to survey research by MIT's Tom Kochan, the share of non-union U.S. workers who would vote to join one jumped from 32% in 1995 to 48% in 2017.
- "The labor movement has shown signs of life in recent years," Logan says. "Plenty of inspiring stories, such as domestic workers, car wash workers, online media workers and more."
- That would be especially significant because Amazon has earned a reputation as "one of the world's most powerful and most anti-union corporations," Logan says.
- On top of all of that, President Biden has said he'll be "the most pro-union president you've ever seen."
Go deeper: The pandemic exposed workers' lack of power