Approval of Labor Unions Has Surged to Its Highest Level in Over 50 Years

Nationwide approval of labor unions has surged to its highest level in over 50 years, continuing its upward climb since 2009. The annual Gallup poll on Work and Education was conducted during August of this year. Not coincidentally, the new high comes amidst a pandemic that has laid bare the sacrifice and responsibility foisted on essential and frontline workers. A new generation of workers has learned that it may be only the power of your union membership that can ensure safety and proper compensation from employers, especially during times of crisis. 

The Gallup numbers pair strikingly with an M.I.T. survey from 2018 showing that almost half of American workers would join a union if they could. 

The popularity of unions is translating into serious political power on a national and regional level. In November 2020, Democrat Congressmen Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Donald Norcross of New Jersey announced the creation of the Labor Caucus, joining 50 fellow caucus members to fight for workers’ rights. And a sweeping pro-worker, pro-union piece of legislation called the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) has already passed the House and awaits Senate approval.

On a regional level, Oregon and Washington remain solidly in the top 10 of most unionized states. In Washington, unions have used their power in the legislature to help pass minimum wage increases, paid family and medical leave laws, and extensive workplace protections that benefit all workers. This vigorous framework of pro-working family, union-backed laws is central to why Oxfam recently rated Washington State the #1 state to work in the country.

All of these gains come despite the coordinated efforts by a small cabal of reactionary billionaires who hoped to cut the influence of union members. They’ve employed a web of dark-money “think tanks” to try to defeat employee rights and collective bargaining, but have yet to show any meaningful results, even after spending tens of millions of dollars.

It’s been common knowledge for some time that unionized workers take home more money and enjoy greater benefits than the non-unionized. Now our nation’s shocking income inequality and the dangers of COVID-19 are awakening a new national consciousness about the importance of union membership. As the beloved, and recently passed, President of the AFL-CIO Richard Trumka explained: “Support for unions is not just about wages and benefits. It’s respect, it’s dignity and it’s health and safety.” It’s a message that is obviously spreading fast among working families across this country.