September 22, 2021US support for labour unions reaches new heights

A Gallup poll reveals that public support for unions in the US has climbed to a 56-year high. And while membership remains low, Gen Zers and younger Gen Yers are leading the way in greater union organizing efforts as they push back against their work arrangements.

Tom Novak

Gallup finds that 68% of Americans approve of labor unions – the highest level of support since reaching 71% in 1965. “Union members have delivered for our communities throughout the country, as workers have finally been recognized as essential to our economy and society during the coronavirus pandemic,” says Liz Shuler, head of the country’s largest federation of unions. Meanwhile, membership in unions is holding steady, with just 9% of US adults reporting that they’re part of such organizations. According to Dr. Dan Cornfield, an expert in unionism at Vanderbilt University, this is because many Republican states have been bringing "right to work" laws that weaken unions, while increasingly large corporations use their "vast resources" to quell union organizing efforts.

According to an American National Election Studies survey, public feeling towards big business is more negative than in any year on record, while Gallup notes that some Republican politicians are supporting union issues amid former President Donald Trump’s appeal to many blue-collar workers. Indeed, approval for unions is at 47% among Republicans, 66% for independents, and 90% among Democrats. With 77% of Americans aged 18-34 approving of unions, companies would be wise to take notice of younger workers’ growing pandemic-related frustrations, rising dissatisfaction with the gig economy and burnout, as well as their increased union organizing efforts, especially in the tech sector and creative industries, and provide employees better working conditions or risk ‘reallocation friction’, labor shortages, or even strikes.

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