The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, September 07, 2018

Union approval rating rises: best since 2003

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

In the U.S., 61 percent of adults say they approve of labor unions, the highest percentage since the 65 percent approval rate in 2003. 

The current labor union approval rate is up five percentage points from last year and is 13 points above the all-time low found in 2009. That information comes from an annual Gallup survey on the subject, released on Aug. 30 based on 1,024 random telephone interviews conducted Aug. 1-12.

"The American public has long supported organized labor, starting with Gallup's earliest measure, taken in 1936 at the dawn of the U.S. labor movement," Gallup's Lydia Saad wrote. "In fact, support for unions was relatively high across the first three decades of measurement, averaging 68 percent from 1936 to 1967. During this period, approval never dropped below 61 percent, and twice - both times in the 1950s -- it stretched to 75 percent.

"Things changed in the 1970s when approval fell to 60 percent. Since then, the percentage of U.S. adults approving of labor unions has averaged 58 percent, dropping below a majority one time to 48 percent. That measure came in August 2009 during the recession, coinciding with congressional Democrats' push for expanded union rights during President Barack Obama's first year in office."

Some nuggets from the poll:

*Union approval varies sharply by political affiliation, with 80 percent of Democrats versus 45 percent of Republicans approving. The rate among independents falls squarely in between, at 62 percent.

*Although a majority of Americans approve of labor unions, fewer want unions' influence to grow. About four in 10 (39 percent) would prefer to see unions have more influence than they have today; 26 percent want their influence to stay the same, and 29 percent would prefer that they have less influence.

*The shifts in approval for more or less union influence seem to reflect the economy. Gallup said the higher the unemployment rate, especially from 2009 to 2011, the higher the percentage of Americans who preferred to see unions have less influence. Conversely, as the unemployment rate fell after 2011, the percentage favoring less influence for unions also fell.

Public approval aside, union membership itself is hurting: it peaked at 28 percent in 1954 and has fallen to about 11 percent today.