The pandemic is spawning a new labour movement in the United Sates, after union membership fell to a record low last year

Workers are increasingly banding together to put pressure on employers and raise public awareness about health and safety issues they're facing on the job.

Why it matters: The new labour movement is amplified by the power of social media, and fuelled by concerns that workers deemed essential during the crisis are putting their lives at risk to ensure the well-being of others.

Driving the News: Instacart shoppers called for a strikes, and some Whole Foods employees used an online petition to demand hazard pay.

Unionized Nurses, flight attendants and auto workers have all leveraged their collective voices in recent weeks to try to influence policy and corporate decision-making during the crisis.

The United Auto Workers — which has had at least nine of its members succumb to the disease in the past week — pressured Detroit carmakers to close their factories on March 18 until social-distancing protocols could be established.

Nurses in New York, Georgia, Illinois and California staged protests this week calling for more personal protective equipment like masks, gloves and gowns.

The Association of Flight Attendants union successfully made its case to Congress to assist aviation employees in the $2 trillion stimulus bill. Even with drastically decreased air traffic, the workers will still get paid.

Between the lines: Social media is proving to be a new avenue for workers to organize.

"We could be on the cusp of a whole new wave of worker actions, and organizing, though not necessarily through traditional unions," MIT professor Thomas Kochan tells Axios.

"Yesterday’s break room is today’s Slack chat," agrees AFL-CIO spokesman Tim Schlittner. "It's an incredible tool in bringing people together and can serve a really important role in growing the labour movement."

But noisy protests don't necessarily result in lasting change, notes Kochan.

"The upside of these actions is they get the attention of the public. The downside is they don’t build sustainable, ongoing organizations like unions."

What to watch: After urging Detroit automakers to shut down, UAW members are now volunteering to produce medical supplies as GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler respond to Trump's demand for their help.