Employment Law Report

Organized Labor Declines in Popularity According to Gallup

By Edwin S. Hopson

The Princeton, New Jersey-based Gallup Poll on September 3, 2009, released the results of its pre-Labor Day poll regarding the popularity of unions in America.  It’s bottom line finding is that “[w]hile 66% of Americans continue to believe unions are beneficial to their own members, a slight majority now say unions hurt the nation’s economy.”  The polling organization also found that “fewer than half of Americans — 48%, an all-time low — approve of labor unions, down from 59% a year ago.”

 The results reported on Gallup’s website (http://www.gallup.com/poll/122744/Labor-Unions-Sharp-Slide-Public-Support.aspx?CSTS=tagrss#1) are from the “2009 installment of Gallup’s annual Work and Education survey” which it conducted from Aug. 6 through August 9, 2009.  Gallup noted that “[t]he 48% of Americans now approving of unions represents the first sub-50% approval since Gallup first asked the question in the 1930s.”  The previous low was 55% in 1979 and 1981.

 The Gallup Poll has been doing polling on this subject since 1936, a year after Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act.  According to Gallup, the 1936 poll found 72% approving of unions and only 20% against unions.  Although approval of unions has declined since 2008 among most major demographic and political groups, the biggest drop as shown in the poll has been among independent voters.

 The Gallup Poll also found:

-The percentage saying unions mostly hurt the companies where workers are organized has risen from 39% in 2006 to 46% in 2009;

 -There has been an even larger jump in the percentage saying labor unions mostly hurt the U.S. economy, from 36% in 2006 to 51% in 2009;

 -Most continue to believe unions are beneficial to their members: 66% in the 2009 poll say unions mostly help workers who are members of unions, while only 28% say unions mostly hurt them.

 -42% say they want unions to have less influence in the United States, compared with 25% favoring more influence–however, factoring in the 28% of Americans who want unions to maintain their current influence results in a combined 53% backing the current power of unions — still the largest opinion segment.