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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Labor unions represent a larger percentage of U.S. workers than at any time in the past five years, as the pandemic took its biggest bite out of non-unionized jobs.

Why it matters: America's labor movement isn't quite resurgent, but it is showing signs of life after decades of decline.

By the numbers: In 2020, 10.8% of all wage and salaried workers were members of unions, up 0.5% from 2019, according to government statistics.

  • That's the highest mark since 2015 (11.%).
  • Men were more likely than women to be in a union (11% vs. 10.5%), and the highest age cohort was 45-64 years old.
  • Black workers (11.2%) were more likely to be union members than white (10.3%), Asian (8.8%) or Hispanic (8.5%) workers.
  • A huge gap remains between public sector (34.8%) and private sector (6.3%) workers.

Caveat: The actual number of union members fell in 2020 by over 321,000, but the decline in nonunion jobs was much steeper.

What's next: The big question is whether labor unions can successfully adjust to the changing face of American work, which is becoming much more about service work than manufacturing.

  • They still face a steep uphill climb, as evidenced by last fall's failure to unionize an Amazon warehouse in Alabama and of a ballot referendum in California to change the legal status of gig economy workers like Uber drivers.
  • Labor may still win out in both cases, though, as the NLRB has recommended a revote by those Amazon workers and a California judge just struck down what was known as Prop 22. Plus, Starbucks is facing a rare unionization push in Upstate New York.

Historical reminder: Labor Day celebrates all American workers, but it was the outgrowth of organized labor marches in the late 1800s that effectively doubled as one-day strikes. It became a federal holiday 12 years after the first such march, which took place in New York City.

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Updated Sep 17, 2021 - Economy & Business

America fought the pandemic economy — and won

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The U.S. economy is emerging from the pandemic with more well-paying jobs for those who want them, less hunger, less poverty, higher wages, less inequality, and more wealth for everyday Americans.

Why it matters: None of these outcomes were expected when the pandemic began. All of them are the result of massive government programs.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
57 mins ago - Energy & Environment

China vows end to building coal-fired power plants abroad

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Mary Altaffer - Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping told the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday that his country "will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad" and plans to boost support for clean energy in developing nations.

Why it matters: The pledge, if maintained, would mark a breakthrough in efforts to transition global power away from the most carbon-emitting fuel.

House Democrats strip Iron Dome money from government funding bill

Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Democrats on Tuesday stripped $1 billion for Israel's Iron Dome defense system from its short-term government funding bill after backlash from progressives, people familiar with the decision tell Axios.

Why it matters: There has never a situation where military aid for Israel was held up because of objections from members of Congress. While the funding will get a vote in its current defense bill, the clash underscores the deep divisions within the Democratic party over Israel.

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