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What’s the Point? Unions Haven’t Been This Popular Since the 1960s
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What’s the Point? Unions Haven’t Been This Popular Since the 1960s

Public approval of unions is spiking.

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Union organizer Christian Smalls celebrates with Amazon workers following the April 1, 2022, vote for the unionization of the Amazon Staten Island warehouse in New York.
Union organizer Christian Smalls (L) celebrates with Amazon workers following the April 1, 2022, vote for the unionization of the Amazon Staten Island warehouse in New York.(Getty/Andrea Renault/AFP/Getty)

With the establishment of the first union at an Amazon workplace by the Amazon Labor Union, it’s a good time to remember that, while unions only represent less than 12 percent of American workers, they are actually more popular today than they have been since the 1960s. In the latest Gallup survey of public attitudes toward unions, 68 percent of respondents say they approve of unions versus only 28 percent who disapprove. That’s a net positive approval rating of 40 points, a level that hasn’t been reached since 1967, more than half a century ago.

Figure 1

What’s the point on unions? There is a vast mismatch between their popularity and how many workers are currently represented by unions. To take advantage of this popularity and the current tight labor market, progressives cannot afford to wait for pro-organizing legislation to work its way through Congress—where it is now stymied. It is imperative to follow the lead of the Amazon Labor Union and support union organizing anywhere and everywhere it seems possible. The data tell us that now is the time.

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Authors

Ruy Teixeira

Senior Fellow

John Halpin

Senior Fellow; Co-Director, Politics and Elections

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This regular column examines in plain language what Americans need to know about new and interesting public opinion research, from the economy to foreign policy issues.

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