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1959: In their heyday, steelworkers on strike in Chicago. Photo: Grey Villet / LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Three decades after Ronald Reagan broke the air traffic controllers union, organized labor is still trying to regain its footing. Just 10% of American workers belong to unions, half the percentage of the Reagan era.

What's happening: Later this month, the AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. labor group, will convene a closed conference call of the leaders of its 55 associated unions to start figuring out how to climb back, Elizabeth Shuler, the AFL-CIO's secretary-treasurer, tells Axios. Later this year, they will gather in Washington, DC, to advance the process.

Why it matters: Robots and jobs are among the most-discussed subjects on the planet. Yet labor — the long-time voice of workers who will be most affected by the technological change — is all but missing from the conversation when thinkers discuss how to address the new age of automation.

  • "All the trappings of your life are connected to your employment arrangement," Shuler says. "The employer-employee relationship is being threatened. You see employers shedding that responsibility. Why not? Of course they would do that."

Be smart: The union has an uphill climb against a deep anti-labor stigma in the U.S., and it knows it. But sentiments change, and so much else is topsy-turvy that a turnaround it is not inconceivable. Says Shuler: "We need to be new, different, relevant, attractive to people. People want to know, 'How does this benefit me?'"

The bottom line: Here is the thinking that Shuler will press: "What kind of society are we going to have if you can't make it? When you have atomization, amazonization and part-timization of work? No one is going to have decent wages, retirement, pensions."

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Inhofe loudly sets Trump straight on defense bill

Sen. Jim Inhofe speaks with reporters in the Capitol last month. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Senator Jim Inhofe told President Trump today he'll likely fail to get two big wishes in pending defense spending legislation, bellowing into his cellphone: "This is the only chance to get our bill passed," a source who overheard part of their conversation tells Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans are ready to test whether Trump's threats of vetoing the bill, which has passed every year for more than half a century, are empty.

Conspiracy theories blow back on Trump's White House

Sidney Powell. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

President Trump has rarely met a conspiracy theory he doesn't like, but he and other Republicans now worry the wild tales told by lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood may cost them in Georgia's Senate special elections.

Why it matters: The two are telling Georgians not to vote for Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler because of a bizarre, baseless and potentially self-defeating theory: It's not worth voting because the Chinese Communist Party has rigged the voting machines.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Bolton lauds Barr for standing up to Trump

John Bolton. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

John Bolton says Attorney General Bill Barr has done more to undercut President Trump's baseless assertions about Democrats stealing the election than most Senate Republicans by saying publicly that the Justice Department has yet to see widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

What he's saying: “He stood up and did the right thing," Bolton said in a Wednesday phone interview.