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Labor unions reach highest level of approval in US since 1965: Gallup

Thomas A. Ferrara/Newsday RM via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Labor unions reached their highest level of approval in the U.S. since 1965, according to a new Gallup poll.

Seventy-one percent of poll respondents said they approve of such organizations, up from 68% last year. Prior to the pandemic, 64% of poll respondents said they approved of unions.

Support for unions peaked in the 1950s, when three in four Americans said they approved of unions, Gallup data showed.

The increase in support for labor unions arrives amid a surge of labor activity nationwide. Petitions for union elections increased 57% over the first six months of fiscal year 2022, which ended on March 31, compared with the same six-month period a year prior, the National Labor Relations Board said in April.

Union victories at high-profile companies like Starbucks and Amazon in recent months have drawn heightened public attention to labor campaigns.

Since an initial union drive at a Starbucks store in Buffalo, New York, in December, 232 additional company locations have voted to unionize, the NLRB said on Monday. Over that period, 47 stores have voted against a union, the agency said.

Meanwhile, in April, a worker-led labor organization won the first-ever U.S. union at a 6,000-employee Amazon warehouse on Staten Island, New York.

Even as approval for unions has increased in recent years, the union membership rate has dropped to a historic low.

Last year, the union membership rate fell to 10.3%, which amounted to 14 million members, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate had dropped from 10.8% in 2020, the BLS found.

By comparison, the union membership rate stood at 20.1% in 1983, the first year for which comparable data was collected, the BLS said. That membership rate amounted to 17.7 million workers who belonged to a union.

The Gallup poll released on Tuesday reinforced the finding that the vast majority of Americans have foregone union membership. Eighty-four percent of respondents said they do not belong to unions, the poll showed.

There appears to be an opportunity for union growth, however. Roughly one in 10 nonunion workers said they’re “extremely interested” in joining a union, according to a separate Gallup poll conducted in June.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents, however, said they’re not interested at all in joining a union.

Some economists have attributed a surge in union activity in recent months to a tight labor market in which employers are eager to hire, thereby affording leverage to workers.

The U.S. economy added a robust 528,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate fell to 3.5%, matching its lowest level in 50 years.

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