Over the last 83, Gallup has asked Americans whether they approve of labor unions or not. In the years since 1936, the answer has ranged from 75% approval in 1953 and 1957, to an all-time low of 48% in 2009. Since 1972, public approval has surpassed 60% only a hand-full of times, in 1999, 2003, 2017, 2018, and 2019. This year is the third consecutive year of approval growth! What does that mean?
Collective action is on the rise. More and more people see the benefit of coming together in unions to raise wages and working conditions on the job. Even after decades of attacks from corporate special interests and the extreme right wing, Labor is on the rise!
Here’s what Gallup has to say:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sixty-four percent of Americans approve of labor unions, surpassing 60% for the third consecutive year and up 16 percentage points from its 2009 low point. This comes 125 years after President Grover Cleveland signed a law establishing the Labor Day holiday after a period of labor unrest in the U.S.
Union approval averaged 68% between Gallup’s initial measurement in 1936 and 1967, and consistently exceeded 60% during that time. Since 1967, approval has been 10 points lower on average, and has only occasionally surpassed 60%. The current 64% reading is one of the highest union approval ratings Gallup has recorded over the past 50 years, topped only in March 1999 (66%), August 1999 (65%) and August 2003 (65%) surveys.
Higher public support for unions in the past few years likely reflects the relatively good economic conditions in place, particularly low unemployment. By contrast, the lowest union approval ratings in Gallup history came from 2009 through 2012, years of high unemployment that followed the Great Recession. Gallup also observed relatively low union approval during the poor economic times in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Democrats, independents and Republicans are all more likely to view unions positively now than they were at the low point a decade ago. Notably, since 2009, union approval has increased among each party group by 16 or 17 points. Democrats (82%) remain far more likely than Republicans (45%) to approve of unions.