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Are Unions Back?

Plastic Roll in Factory.

Unions appear to be back in the headlines and have been for what appears to be a few years now. Anyone just reading the headlines and not the research could say that unions are making a comeback after decades of low membership. However, careful reading indicates that not much has changed.

Over the last several years, unions have garnered a lot of attention due to some victories at well known organizations and brands. Starbucks, Amazon, and Google are only a few recognizable names who have, to a certain extent, been unionized. Industries like technology and media, whose white collar workforce isn’t known for unionizing, has seen an increase in unionization. Adding to the mix a global pandemic certainly helped boost unions and their membership as they advocated for safer workplaces. But if things are on the rise for unions, or so they appear, why do the numbers show something different?

Reuters reports that the number of wage and salary workers who were members of a union increased by 273,000 (1.9%) in 2022. However, according to the Pew Research Center, the number of “U.S. workers who belong to a union has fallen since 1983, when 20.1% of American workers were union members. In 2022, 10.1% of U.S. workers were in a union.” So how does that happen? The answer lies in the rise of total number of wage and salary workers by 5.3 million in 2022, mostly non-union workers. (Reuters)

While the numbers show two different stories, research also shows that many Americans are sympathetic to unions. In August 2022, Gallup published an article that sites approval levels of labor unions are as high as they were in 1965. In their article, Gallup sites its annual Work and Education Survey, which reported 71% of Americans polled approved of labor unions.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next several years. But we have front row seats to see how it all plays out.

Are Unions Back? © 2023 by Ruben Castillo is licensed under CC BY-ND 4.0

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