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Thursday, October 20, 2016

According to several polls from throughout the past year, the public perception of labor unions is improving in America — even as union membership continues to steadily decline.

Two recent polls find that Americans have a divided, but improving, view of organized labor. According to a survey from Republican-leaning Rasmussen Reports released Sunday, 44 percent of American adults have a favorable opinion of labor unions, while 45 percent view them unfavorably; 14 percent view unions very favorably, while 24 percent view them very unfavorably. This marks a minor improvement from Rasmussen’s 2012 poll, which found that 42 percent had a favorable opinion of labor unions, compared to 49 percent who had an unfavorable view.

The slight shift mirrors the results of a Pew Research Center poll from late June, which found that 51 percent hold a favorable view of labor unions, compared to 42 percent who view them unfavorably. That represents a significant improvement from Pew’s previous poll on the topic in August 2011, when public perception of unions hit its nadir. During that time of widespread economic dissatisfaction, just 41 percent of Americans viewed labor unions favorably.

The rebound in unions’ favorability comes during a time of heightened activity by the labor movement — 2013 has seen high-profile protests against low, stagnating wages, new “right-to-work” laws in several states, and North Carolina’s ultra-conservative turn, among other issues.

There is a broad consensus in favor of at least one of labor’s top legislative priorities: raising the federal minimum wage. Throughout the past year, polls from Pew Research Center, Gallup, and Rasmussen Reports have all found that overwhelming majorities favor raising the minimum wage from its current rate of $7.25 per hour. A Hart Research Associates poll from July found that 80 percent of Americans — including 62 percent of Republicans — support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, over one dollar per hour higher than President Obama has proposed.

Still, despite these positive poll results, labor still has cause for great concern in 2013. As Pew’s Bruce Drake points out, union membership declined from 11.8 percent of the workforce in 2011 to 11.3 percent in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is sharply down from 1983 — the first year for which the BLS has comparable data — when 20.1 percent of the workforce was affiliated with a labor union. That percentage has fallen in every single year since.

U.S. Union Membership

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  • charleo1

    I would invite my friends to listen to Ross Perot, and his spot on forecast of what
    he calls these one way trade policies, would do to the economy of the U.S. This
    was in 1992 mine you. Google, “That giant sucking sound.” The hard truth is both
    Clinton, and G.H.W Bush, were committed to the corporate elite, in selling American
    Labor out. To quote Mr. Perot. “If they, (foreign countries,) had to pay U.S. wages,
    and healthcare, the single most expensive benefit management offers. Observe
    environmental protections, and regulations, they couldn’t unload one car into the
    U.S.” “Now they say the $1.00 an hour they pay in Mexico, will over time rise to
    $6.00 an hour. And American wages will fall to $6.00.” But, by that time we will have
    wrecked our economy!”

    • Allan Richardson

      The people in charge of the “symbolic” economy, that is the distribution of money and thus the distribution of the goodies that are produced, have PLANNED to destroy our “physical” economy, in order to destroy democracy and return to feudalism. And they have the chutzpah to accuse anyone who calls them on it of “class warfare.” Well, it’s not “warfare” when only one side is fighting; it’s more like the invasion of Poland in 1939.

      • charleo1

        Well, I think that’s true. Because, what else could explain the very
        deliberate actions that put third world, Communist oppressed labor,
        with no Civil Rights, in direct competition with U.S. labor here? Then,
        accuse labor unions, and environmental regulations of driving jobs
        overseas. A bill of goods, is what Americans have been sold. Class
        Warfare is nothing but an obvious lie, to silence those who are asking, what the hell is going on? Who wonder if it is it too much to ask of elected officials to remember their job is to look out for the best interests of The United States, and it’s people? Unfortunately,
        we have our answer. For far too long, the American People have
        had zero representation in these rooms where these trade policies are formulated, and signed into law. And the economies of both China, and it’s 7+% growth, and the U.S. with our 1%, reflects that. And what’s especially galling, is it’s not this free market Capitalism
        they are always touting as the cure-all to our economic woes.
        It has been one side selling out the most lucrative consumer market in the world, here, and getting nothing in the bargain, but government
        debt, unemployment, stagnant wages, the weakening of democracy,
        and the security of the United States. And the strengthening of international Communism. It is either treasonous, or it is unbelievably stupid. And these are not stupid individuals.

  • Argo

    I don’t understand why people can’t see the blatantly obvious correlation to the decline of union representation and the decline of the working class. When union representation was highest, America was at it’s best economically and socially. With the rise in the number of hours people need to work, the lowering of pay per hour, the decline of medical coverage, the evaporation of pensions… we are spiraling toward destitution because we are so hell bent on taking away what made it all work. It certainly wasn’t the goodness of the rich elite’s hearts that established the vibrant working class of the 50’s through 70’s.

    Oh yeah… I remember why the people don’t remember; the anti education regime of the right wing has convinced people that “Learnin’ is dum” and “Histrey is stoopid”
    and that trying to learn facts and historical truths gets in the way of important things like Monday night football and American Idol, or who is going to win the next “Master Chef”.