September 02, 2019

🛠️ Happy Labor Day! Thanks to all who labor while some of us get a few last hours of summer. And so sorry for all those in Dorian's track — Godspeed for the hours ahead.

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  • Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,149 words ... ~ 4 minutes.

1 big thing: Unions shrink fast in swing states

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Map: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

America has half as many union members today as 35 years ago, Axios' Stef Kight writes:

  • The percentage of U.S. workers who are union members fell from 20.1% in 1983 to just 10.5% in 2018, according to the Pew Research Center.
  • Dying union membership has been most pronounced in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — all states where manufacturing employment has plummeted, and President Trump won in 2016.

The main reasons for the decline, according to Brookings:

  1. The shift from manufacturing to a services-based economy.
  2. More people are getting college degrees, and workers with a high school degree or less have typically been more likely to have union jobs.
  3. The rise of tech, with the attraction of more high-paying, nonunion jobs for the highest-skilled workers.
  4. Deregulation, which made it easier for nonunion employers to compete.
  5. The spread of right-to-work legislation, which allows for some workers to receive the benefits of unions without paying dues.
  6. Aggressive employers who have used tactics like delaying union elections, hiring consultants to help fight unionization and publicly opposing unions.

What to watch: Public sector unions have maintained their strength over the past several decades, according to Brookings.

  • But a recent Supreme Court decision preventing public sector unions from collecting fees from nonunion employees could hurt membership.

Our thought bubble, from Axios' Dan Primack: Sens. Sanders and Warren have been unabashedly pro-union. So one of them becoming president could help fuel a union comeback.

2. Inside Dorian's eye

Photo: @GBlack22wx on Twitter

This stunning photo, capturing the calm in Dorian's eye, was posted to Twitter by meteorologist Garrett Black, an Air Force Hurricane Hunter, who credited Jordan Sun and Hunter McAlister for the camerawork.

  • And here's the view from above:

🌬️ Bulletin: Hurricane Dorian pounded at the northern Bahamas today, as one of the strongest Atlantic storms ever recorded left wrecked homes, shredded roofs, tumbled cars and toppled power poles. (AP)

What you need to know: Axios has the latest news and pics.

3. Reader pics from Bahamas

Photo: Jay Wallace

Here's what Nassau looked like from the air yesterday.

  • Jay and Kathleen Wallace, longtime friends from Dallas, didn't let a monster hurricane spoil their Labor Day weekend in Nassau. They chilled while others fled, and took their regularly scheduled Delta flight at 4 p.m. yesterday.
  • "The flight attendant said several times: 'As soon as everyone is seated we are taking off immediately,'" Jay says. "Nobody lollygagged with their carry-on."

The less intrepid had left their resort, the Baha Mar, so the Wallaces had no trouble getting a spot at the pool or seat at the bar. It looked like "The Shining."

Photo: Jay Wallace

Bonus ... Coming to America: Where migrants go

Photo: Elliot Spagat/AP

This sign — in Spanish, with travel times to U.S. destinations — is posted at a migrant shelter affiliated with the San Diego Rapid Response Network.

  • According to data gleaned from registration forms at the shelter, Houston was the destination for 432 of 7,358 families briefly housed there from October through June — 100 more than the second most popular spot, Los Angeles, AP's Elliot Spagat reports.
  • Chicago, a longtime draw for Mexican immigrants, was the destination for only 76 families, ranking 21st with less than half the number of families headed to Nashville, Tenn., and barely more than Fort Myers, Fla.
  • Dumas, a town of 15,000 people in the Texas Panhandle that is half Latino and has a large meatpacking plant nearby, was the destination for 56 families, more than Denver, Phoenix or Seattle.
  • Other small cities that drew large numbers include Huntsville and Gadsden in Alabama and Chattanooga, Tenn.

4. Musk moves into insurance

Tesla announced last week that it would begin offering auto insurance to its electric-car customers — "a rare move by a carmaker to break into the insurance market," per the Financial Times (subscription).

  • Why it matters: "Elon Musk, who is known for his ambitions that span industries from solar power to space travel, has complained in the past about the high premium paid to insure Tesla cars."

5. 📚 Rick Stengel: Russian trolls targeted African Americans

Cover: Grove Atlantic

Here's a sneak peek at a book coming this fall from Richard Stengel, former editor of TIME and Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs ... "Information Wars: How We Lost the Global Battle Against Disinformation and What We Can Do About It" (Grove Atlantic, Oct. 8).

  • This is from a section describing a manual that was given to newly hired trolls at Russia's Internet Research Agency, and smuggled out by some disenchanted employees:
The Russians were equal-opportunity offenders. They supported liberal causes and conservative ones. There was no particular through-line or ideology in their messaging other than to stir up dissatisfaction and grievance in the audience. In the same day, they created social media that said immigration was polluting America and that racism was keeping down African Americans.
They highlighted the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, around the shooting of an unarmed black teenager. The guidance said to refer to Ferguson at every opportunity in discussing racism in the U.S.
My intelligence briefers put this in the context of the Soviet Union’s long history of spotlighting racism in America, going back to propaganda posters about the Scottsboro Boys in the 1930s. It was a particular focus of Russian propaganda during the Cold War when the Russian press focused on protests against school integration in the South.
The idea was to discredit the American system and accuse the U.S. of hypocrisy when it was preaching democracy abroad. The classic Russian Cold War retort was "But you lynch Negroes." And now, they were focused on stirring up, confusing and suppressing black voters in 2016.


6. Holiday read: The book Prince didn't write

Prince in 1995. Photo: Brian Rasic/Getty Images

In the new issue of The New Yorker: "Prince was my co-writer" ... "The music idol imagined an autobiography that would help everyone, especially young black artists, realize their power and agency."

  • But he had only months to live. Dan Piepenbring, who had won his audition to be Prince's collaborator, draws on their interviews to tell this story:
We spoke about diction. “Certain words don’t describe me,” he said. White critics bandied about terms that demonstrated a lack of awareness of who he was. “Alchemy” was one. When writers ascribed alchemical qualities to his music, they were ignoring the literal meaning of the word, the dark art of turning base metal into gold. He would never do something like that. He reserved a special disdain for the word “magical.” I’d used some version of it in my statement. “Funk is the opposite of magic,” he said. “Funk is about rules.”

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