Sep 2, 2019

Unions shrink fast in swing states

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

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has challenged 2020 Democratic candidates to prove their support and not to take the union vote for granted — but there are half as many union members today than there were just 35 years ago, according to the Pew Research Center.

Why it matters: Half of Americans say the decline of unions has had a negative impact on workers, according to a Pew Research Center survey. And it may be a central reason for stagnant wages and growing income inequality in the U.S., according to a new study by the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project.

Between the lines: President Trump's appeal to blue-collar workers was a major factor in his victories in what were once big union states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton won the union vote by the narrowest margin in decades.

  • But the decline hasn't made labor a less important part of the Democratic coalition, as top 2020 candidates such as Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have already begun to woo union voters.
  • Our thought bubble, from Axios' Dan Primack: Sanders and Warren have been unabashedly pro-union. An argument could be made that one of them becoming president could be the one thing that could bring back unions. It would be a central part of their campaign — not a "take for granted" sidelight.

By the numbers:

  • Despite low wages and severe income inequality, the percentage of U.S. workers who are union members has fallen from 20.1% in 1983 to just 10.5% in 2018, according to Pew.
  • Dying union membership has been most pronounced in states such as Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — states where manufacturing employment has plummeted and Trump won in 2016, per Brookings.

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 have a significant impact on membership.

Go deeper

Italy reports lowest number of new coronavirus cases since February

Italy’s aerobatic team Frecce Tricolori fly over Milan in Duomo Square on May 25. Photo: Francesco Prandoni/Getty Images

The Italian government reported 300 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, the lowest daily increase since Feb. 29.

Why it matters: Italy, the first country in Europe to implement a nationwide lockdown after emerging as a hotspot in March, appears to have finally weathered its coronavirus outbreak. Italy has reported nearly 33,000 total deaths, the third-highest total behind the U.S. and U.K.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 5,453,784 — Total deaths: 345,886 — Total recoveries — 2,191,310Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 1,651,254 — Total deaths: 97,850 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: Top Boris Johnson aide defends himself after allegations he broke U.K. lockdown — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Joe Biden makes first public appearance in over two months

Photo: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made his first in-person appearance in over two months on Monday to honor Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a Delaware veterans park, AP reports.

Why it matters: Biden, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, has taken the unprecedented step of campaigning from his home during the coronavirus pandemic, ever since canceling a rally in Cleveland on March 10.