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U.S. union membership falls, despite activism

Union membership falls despite activism

After a year marked by weeks-long labor strikes and unprecedented movements to organize at some of the largest corporations in the United States, unionization levels fell back to historic lows.

The rate of union membership, or the percentage of wage and salary workers who were part of a union, was 10.3 percent in 2021, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Thursday. That’s down 0.5 percentage points from 2020 and matches the prepandemic level of 2019.  

Among private-sector workers, the numbers were even lower: Union members made up just 6.1 percent of that workforce, compared with 33.9 percent of the public sector.

Last year, U.S. workers seized attention through individual choices like quitting their jobs in record numbers and collective action including strikes by union members at John Deere, Kellogg’s and Columbia University — as well as nonunion walkouts at companies like Activision Blizzard and McDonald’s.

They also mounted high-profile unionization campaigns at top U.S. companies, including a failed union vote among thousands of Amazon workers in Alabama, and a successful one among a few dozen Starbucks employees in New York. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)

But these actions didn’t translate into more overall members. That’s partly because successes like those at Starbucks remained limited in scope, and also because workers at big corporations like Amazon have voted against unionization, sometimes out of fear that otherwise the company would shut their workplace.

— Bloomberg News

Peloton reportedly to halt some production

Peloton stock lost about a quarter of its value Thursday after CNBC reported that it would halt production of its signature connected bikes and treadmills amid slowing demand.

Citing internal documents, the news outlet said the company would pause production of its Bike for two months starting in February. It will extend an earlier production freeze on its more expensive Bike+, and it won’t produce its Tread treadmill for six weeks, CNBC reported.

By market close, Peloton was trading at just over $24 a share, down nearly 24 percent. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post.

Peloton was among a cadre of fitness-minded companies that benefited in the early days of the pandemic as consumers looked for new ways to work out at home. But the company has struggled in recent months as more Americans head back to the gym.

— Aaron Gregg

McDonald's expands meatless burger sales

McDonald’s is expanding sales of its meatless McPlant burger to hundreds of locations.

The company said the McPlant burger, which it co-developed with plant-based protein company Beyond Meat, will be sold at 600 stores in the San Francisco and Dallas areas starting Feb. 14.

It’s a major expansion for the McPlant, which was introduced last November at eight stores in Texas, Iowa, Louisiana and California. McDonald’s said the larger product test will help it understand customer demand.

The Chicago-based company offered no details about what it learned from its first round of sales, or whether it has since tweaked the recipe. The McPlant is made from peas, rice and potatoes, among other ingredients.

— Associated Press

U.S. home sales tumbled in December as higher prices amid record-low inventory continued to shut out some first-time buyers. Existing-home sales dropped 4.6 percent, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.18 million units last month, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday. Sales fell across all regions.

Russia's central bank on Thursday proposed banning the use and mining of cryptocurrencies on Russian territory, citing threats to financial stability, citizens' well-being and its monetary policy sovereignty. Russia has argued for years against cryptocurrencies, saying they could be used in money laundering or to finance terrorism. It eventually gave them legal status in 2020 but banned their use as payment.

— From news services