According to a recently released poll from Gallup, seventy-one percent of Americans now say they approve of labor unions. Although statistically similar to last year’s 68% approval rating, it is up from 64% before the pandemic and is the highest Gallup has recorded on this question since 1965 – almost 60 years ago.
The latest approval result comes amid an increasing number of 2022 union victories across the country, with high-profile and widely reported labor organizing successes at major American corporations such as Amazon and Starbucks. In fact, the National Labor Relations Board reported a 57% increase in union election petitions filed during the first six months of fiscal year 2021.
Historical support for labor unions peaked in the 1950s, when three in four Americans said they approved of unions. Support only dipped below the 50% mark once, in 2009, but has improved in the 13 years since and now sits at a level last seen nearly 60 years ago.
But despite the traditionally high levels of labor union approval, relatively few American workers are active members of labor unions in their current workplaces. Only about sixteen percent of Americans live in a household where at least one resident is a union member. This includes U.S. adults who report that they themselves are a union member at 6% of respondents, or those who say someone else in their home is a union member at 7%.
This increased approval for labor unions has developed in the context of the tight labor market and persistent low unemployment rate that developed during the pandemic, which has altered the balance of power between employers and employees, creating an environment more accepting and open towards union membership – resulting in the formation of unions at several high-profile companies.
It is a challenging environment for employers – while most employers reflexively push back against unionization efforts despite unions’ improved public image, an increase in unionization efforts is still taking place. Employers of these organizing and newly unionized workers will need to find ways to improve their workplaces and working conditions if they wish to hold on to their status quo relationship with their employees.
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