Americans' support for unions at highest level in decades

Americans' support for unions at highest level in decades

(NewsNation) — Like millions of Americans pay attention to their actual salary decline in the face of rising inflation, support for unions has surged to its highest level in nearly 60 years, according to a recent Gallup poll.

The survey, from August, found 71% of Americans approve of unions — nearly 20 points over a decade ago and the highest percentage in a Gallup poll since 1965.

Widespread support came despite the fact that only 6% of survey respondents were part of a trade union.

“The low unemployment rate that has developed during the pandemic is changing the balance of power between employers and employees, creating an environment that encourages union membership that has resulted in the formation of unions in some well-known companies,” the Gallup report said. “While it has increased, public approval of unions has only increased further during the pandemic and is now at a level not seen in nearly six decades.”

By 2021, about 10% of American workers are unionized, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s about half the number of unions in 1983.

But there are signs the US labor movement is starting to regain some momentum.

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The National Labor Relations Board reports 57% increase in the number of union representative petitions filed during the first half of this fiscal year.

It’s a sign a tight labor market, characterized by low unemployment and millions of open jobs, has given workers additional leverage to bargain collectively.

Just last month, the union represented railroad workers negotiated 24% increase along with a $5,000 bonus and an improved work schedule.

In California, more than half a million fast food workers could see their wages rise to $22 an hour now that Governor Gavin Newsom has sign the FAST Recovery Act. The first bill of its kind created a statewide “Fast Food Council” that would set minimum industry standards and allow workers to negotiate more effectively as a sector.

Other big companies, such as Amazon and Starbucks, have also seen efforts to unionize moving forward.

In April, Amazon workers on Staten Island, New York, choose to associate in the first successful US organizing effort in the retail giant’s history.

As of August, employees at more than 220 Starbucks stores have also chosen to associate.

It remains to be seen whether the wave of unions will continue into 2023. Many economists expect a recession in the coming months that could shift the balance of power back to employers.

Among non-union workers, the majority (58%) said they were not at all interested in joining, Gallup found.

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