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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The pandemic walloped the job market, but it might have strengthened unions.

The big picture: Even though the pandemic brought historic job losses, the share of U.S. workers who are union members rose half a percentage point to 10.8%, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Friday.

  • That's because union members held onto their jobs at higher rates than non-union members. "There's some evidence that unions did a good job at protecting their members from layoffs, compared with the non-union sectors," says John Logan, a U.S. labor historian at San Francisco State University.

Why it matters: The pandemic exposed the ugly ways in which workers — especially those on the low end of the wage spectrum — are treated. And that has revitalized the appeal of unions and underscored the importance of worker voices.

What's happening: Unions have been losing power in the U.S. for decades now. But a number of factors are coming together and setting the stage for a union renaissance.

  • Interest in unions has been steadily rising among workers. According to survey research by MIT's Tom Kochan, the share of non-union U.S. workers who would vote to join one jumped from 32% in 1995 to 48% in 2017.
  • "The labor movement has shown signs of life in recent years," Logan says. "Plenty of inspiring stories, such as domestic workers, car wash workers, online media workers and more."

And more recently, unions have started showing up in new and unlikely places. Google workers formed one. And Amazon warehouse workers are getting closer to forming one in Alabama.

  • That would be especially significant because Amazon has earned a reputation as "one of the world's most powerful and most anti-union corporations," Logan says.
  • On top of all of that, President Biden has said he'll be "the most pro-union president you've ever seen."

Go deeper: The pandemic exposed workers' lack of power

Go deeper

Biden's 100-day school goal smacks into reality

Joe Biden appears before the Iowa State Educators Association in January 2020. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Some White House political advisers are privately concerned President Biden may not be able to meet his goal to reopen schools within his first 100 days, yet the president himself remains committed to it, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: The Republican Party has long struggled to maintain support from suburban voters, and it's betting parents fed up with homeschooling their kids because of COVID-19 will be turned off if Biden is seen as ignoring science or coddling unions. The GOP would portray any backtracking as a political win.

Updated 32 mins ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. faces urgent anti-hacker crisis

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The Biden administration is accelerating efforts to fill nearly 600,000 vacant cybersecurity positions in the public and private sectors bogging down efforts to protect digital infrastructure.

Why it matters: Following a deluge of ransomware attacks targeting critical government and corporate infrastructure this year, clogs in the talent pipeline are leaving federal, cash-strapped local governments and Big Business even more susceptible to hacking.

Mike Allen, author of AM
5 hours ago - World

Courage vs. coddling with China

Peng Shuai of China serves during the China Open in Beijing in 2017. Photo: Andy Wong/AP

The women's professional tennis tour suspended tournaments in China Wednesday out of concern for Peng Shuai, on the same day that a top business voice made excuses for Beijing.

Why it matters: Ahead of February's Winter Olympics in Beijing, some sports figures are taking on the regime — while Big Business shrinks from confrontation with the world's second-largest economy.