Axios AM

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September 06, 2021

Shanah tovah! — Good year! — to our Jewish sisters and brothers, who mark the High Holy Day of Rosh Hashanah, the new year, beginning at sundown.

  • 🍖 Toques off to Axios' David Nather, who's smoking a brisket with "a very basic Salt Lick recipe: salt, pepper, pinch of cayenne for a very slight kick, baste once with BBQ sauce and let it go!"

Smart Brevity™ count: 1,048 words ... 4 minutes. Edited by Kate Nocera.

1 big thing: Labor surprise

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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, Axios' Dan Primack writes.

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

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.

Today's backstory: 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 march, which took place in New York City.

2. Taliban slams door

Photo: Maxar Technologies via Reuters

This satellite image shows planes waiting Friday near the main terminal of Mazar-e-Sharif airport, in northern Afghanistan.

For days, the Taliban has been preventing the departure of at least four planes chartered to evacuate several hundred people seeking to escape, AP's Kathy Gannon writes from Kabul.

  • An Afghan official at the Mazar-e-Sharif airport said the would-be passengers are Afghans — many of whom don't have passports or visas, and thus were unable to leave the country. He said they had left the airport while the situation was sorted out.

⚡ The latest: The Taliban today claimed victory over opposition forces in Panjshir, the last holdout province.

  • The Taliban declared it has completed the takeover of Afghanistan, and will announce a new government soon. (Reuters)

3. Where we're moving

Data: Updater. Table: Sara Wise/Axios
Data: Updater. Table: Sara Wise/Axios

Updater, a digital moving company, looked at a random sample of 1.5 million moves to spot which cities had the most net inbound moves, indexed by city size, Brianna Crane writes for Axios Tampa Bay.

4. ⚜️ Neighbor to neighbor: New Orleans copes (again!)

Photo: Kevin McGill/AP

More than 60% of New Orleans remained without power yesterday.

  • Above, Joyce and Dave Thomas offer spicy jambalaya along the Carrollton streetcar tracks in New Orleans.

Why it matters: Chefs and amateur cooks alike are piling plates high with comfort food. Residents with generators are charging their neighbors' cellphones, and revving up chainsaws to clear downed trees, AP's Kevin McGill reports.

  • Volunteers at a local church handed out bags of cleaning supplies and boxes of diapers.
Photo: Kevin McGill/AP

Live Oak Café in New Orleans welcomes passers-by.

Photo: Eric Gay/AP

El Pavo Real restaurant owner Lindsey McLellan used food preserved "with ice and prayer" to serve a sidewalk breakfast of shrimp and grits, and this free steak taco meal.

5. 📚 What I'm reading: Inspired by "The Streak"

Cover: Simon & Schuster

Out tomorrow from David Rubenstein — financier, philanthropist, author, interviewer and host of an eponymous Bloomberg TV show:

  • "The American Experiment," a collection of interviews on "how a certain unique combination of qualities produced ... a distinctive country."

Cal Ripken Jr., baseball's Iron Man, tells David about "The Streak" — 2,632 consecutive games over 17 years, spanning a record 8,243+ consecutive innings played:

The special part about the Streak was that everybody has their own idea of what their own streak is in their lives. ... [P]eople would share their streaks with me: "Haven't missed a day of work." "My kid hasn't missed a day of school for twelve years." The important thing was showing up.

💡 So, in this season of renewal, what will your streak be?

  • Let me know, and I'll share some of the interesting/inspiring ones. Just hit "reply" to this email, or write me any time: [email protected].

Other entries in David's book: Jill Lepore on America's promise ... Madeleine Albright on the American immigrant ... Ken Burns on Vietnam ... Henry Louis Gates Jr. on Reconstruction ... Elaine Weiss on suffrage ... Jon Meacham on civil rights ... Walter Isaacson on innovation ... David McCullough on the Wright Brothers ... John Barry on pandemics ... Paul Simon and Wynton Marsalis on music ... Billie Jean King on sports ... Michael Beschloss on 2020 ... Rita Moreno on film.

6. 1 for the road: Anthony Bourdain on the evening rush

Photo: CNN Films

For a special archival issue on food & drink, The New Yorker editor David Remnick resurfaces the 2000 New Yorker article, "Annals of Gastronomy: Hell's Kitchen," that helped bring fame to the late Anthony Bourdain, then chef at Les Halles (and New Yorker freelancer):

The orders are arriving non-stop. My left hand grabs tickets, separates white ones for the grill man, yellow ones for the sauté man, and pink master copies, which I use to time and generally oversee the production. My right hand wipes plates, inserts rosemary sprigs into mashed potatoes. I'm yelling full time, trying to hold it all together. If there is an unforeseeable mishap — say, one of the big tables' orders was prematurely sent out, only to be returned — the whole process could come to a full stop.
"Where’s that f---ing confit?" I yell at Angel, who’s struggling to make blinis for smoked salmon, to brown ravioli under the salamander, to lay out plates of pâté, and to do five endive salads, all more or less at once. A hot escargot explodes in front of me, spattering me with boiling garlic butter and snail guts.

Keep reading ... An earlier Bourdain piece for The New Yorker, "Don’t Eat Before Reading This: A New York chef spills some trade secrets" (1999).

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