You’ve probably heard it from a colleague, or maybe from a friend or family member:
“Kids these days… they’re just too ambivalent to care about labor unions or workers’ rights.”
But as it turns out, that’s just not true. Young people are actually big fans of unions. Fully 61 percent of young people view labor unions favorably – and that’s more than 10 points higher than the national average, according to a new Pew poll. In fact, young people are the only age group that views unions more favorably than they view corporations.
But despite the overwhelming support young people have for unions, they’re far less likely to belong to one. Harold Meyerson writes in the American Prospect:
The irony for unions —and in theory, the opportunity—is that the youngest Americans are the least unionized.
Gallup and Pew concur: Just over one-half of Americans approve of labor unions.
In late June, the Pew Research Center released the results of its biennial poll on unions and corporations, and reported that 51 percent of Americans had a favorable view of unions—up from just 41 percent in 2011, the last time Pew popped the question. Pew’s new number is almost identical to Gallup’s, which found that 52 percent of Americans approved of unions when it last asked that question in August of 2012. Gallup polls on union approval every year and has reported a 52 percent approval rating each of the past three years. Before then, union approval had hit an all-time low for Gallup surveys, with just 48 percent in 2009.
(This post first appeared on the American Prospect and is republished with permission.)
As the number of American public- and private-sector workers belonging to a labor union reached an all-time low this past year, many of us sat on the sidelines scratching our collective heads, wondering why. Academics and economists will say it’s because the type of work Americans do is changing and, as we shift from a manufacturing to a service economy, union jobs in factories (those that haven’t already been offshored) are being replaced by nonunion desk jobs. However, ask an average employee or person on the street why fewer workers belong to a union than a generation ago. They will most likely say it’s because unions have lost their relevance, are outdated concepts or that they aren’t needed.
But how can the latter be true when the mean real wages of American workers are lower than they were in the 1970s, around the time that union manufacturing jobs began globally migrating south and to Asia?
How a union of Yale employees aligned itself with community activists and won control of a beleaguered city.
This article and illustration originally appeared in The American Prospect.
Major Ruth became a civic leader because he made a promise to his neighbor, Brian Wingate. Both had moved to the Beaver Hills section of New Haven, Connecticut, in 2003. A neighborhood of aging single–family homes that had seen better days, Beaver Hills had been targeted by the city for a housing–rehabilitation program, and, with the zeal of new arrivals, Ruth, a manager at the local utility company, and Wingate, a custodian and union steward at nearby Yale University, sought to involve themselves in neighborhood–improvement ventures. That proved harder than they had anticipated. Although New Haven aldermanic districts are tiny, encompassing no more than 4,300 residents, Ruth and Wingate couldn’t find anyone who could identify,
There are many similarities between the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s and the union movement that preceded it in the early decades of the 20th century. Both met with hostility, opposition, and violence. Yet today we look back on the former with gratitude and admiration, while the latter is either forgotten or distorted in our collective memory.
Hard-fought union gains have become part of the fabric of our society: the eight-hour day, elimination of child labor, and safer conditions are but a few of the benefits that unions have secured for all of us. Yet unions have been broadly demonized, and the gains they have won are slipping away.
I’ll be the first to admit that unions have their issues. Nevertheless, I am grateful that my husband and I have been loyal union members all of our adult lives (I am a teacher; he is a Teamster).