Approval of Labor Unions Increases Slightly to 65%, Holds at 50 Year High

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Updated (09/09/2020)  This morning, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest, and record high U.S. unemployment, the Gallup organization reported that approval of labor unions increased slightly year-over-year and holds steady at 65%.

In past years, we have noted a demonstrated inverse correlation between the unemployment rate and union approval.  In other words, as unemployment rises, approval of labor unions typically tends to fall.  Not this year!  

According to Gallup, this new data point could be bucking the trend because the American public is focusing on issues other than the economy. 

What are Americans focused on?  Gallup reports that overall satisfaction among Americans remains at historical lows (only 13% of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going). Simply put, public health and larger social issues are the main focus these days – and for good reason. 

A Change in Direction Would be Welcomed by Most Ameircans  

At Chessboard, we monitor and analyze the political landscape from the perspective that changes in political direction typically also result in changes in national labor policy. 

If the November election produces a change in party control within Washington, we will likely return to a regulatory environment that is more supportive of organized labor.  And, in the extreme, we could see passage of pro-labor legislation such as the PRO Act (Protecting the Right to Organize). 

Through it all, we will be here to help you make sense of, prepare for, and respond to any changes in labor policy.  Happy Labor Day!


Gallup Survey Results: Union Approval 64%, Near 50-Year High

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Happy Labor Day! 

The folks at Gallup have published the results of their annual public opinion poll on support for labor unions. 

According to Gallup pollsters, “Sixty-four percent of Americans approve of labor unions, surpassing 60% for the third consecutive year and up 16 percentage points from its 2009 low point.” 

Pointing to the relationship between polling responses and the current unemployment rate, Gallup pollsters also reported that “the current 64% reading is one of the highest union approval ratings Gallup has recorded over the past 50 years, topped only in March 1999 (66%), August 1999 (65%) and August 2003 (65%) surveys.”   

Significantly, according to the most recent Gallup survey, support for unions is:

  • Higher among women (66%) vs. men (61%).
  • Highest among ages 18-34 (67%) vs. ages 35-54 (64%) and 55 + (61%).
  • Higher among college graduates (68%) vs. no college (58%).
  • Much higher among Democrats (82%) vs. Republicans (45%).

Welcome to 2019: We are living in interesting times!

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January 1, 2019

At Chessboard, our continued focus is to support clients with resources and services that boost employee engagement, contributing to higher talent retention and lower vulnerability to union organizing.  And, as in years past, as we enter 2019 we see a variety of factors that represent opportunities and challenges for employers in the year ahead. 

As 2019 begins, a robust U.S. economy has resulted in a record low 3.7% unemployment rate – a long way from the peak of nearly 10% reached in 2010 during the Great Recession.  In the current prosperous climate, employees seem to prefer cooperation over conflict – suggested by a record low rate of union membership (total 2017 union membership was 10.7% and only 6.5% in the private sector).  And, while these data points imply a climate of workplace prosperity and peace, employers should take heed of potential storm clouds on the horizon:  

  • Recruitment and retention challenges will continue:  Employers in all industries cite recruitment and retention as a top challenge heading into 2019.  These issues are especially acute in the healthcare industry, with “recruitment and retention” cited as the top challenge for Chief Nurse Executives in 2019.
  • Public approval of labor unions is on the rise and highest among females, college graduates and millennials:  In the latest Gallup survey, public approval of labor unions registered another increase (62%, up from 61% in 2017).  Significantly, according to the Gallup survey, support for unions is higher among women (64%), college graduates (70%) and those ages 18-34 (65%).  Separately, research published in January 2018 by the MIT Worker Voice Project indicates that 48% of workers say they would join a union if they could, significantly higher than previous highs of 32% in 1995 and 33% in 1977.
  • The 2018 mid-term election outcomes will boost union influence in 2019:  With Democrats in control of the House in 2019, employers should expect an aggressive oversight and legislative agenda regarding labor and employment issues.  The newly elected House Democratic majority will likely focus on drafting legislation that supports a progressive narrative.  Such efforts will surely include the previously referenced proposal to increase the minimum wage but could also include proposals to expand family/sick leave and increase union rights (i.e., the Workplace Democracy Act).  And, while this proposed legislation is unlikely to be signed into law, it will stake out the Dem’s legislative priorities ahead of the 2020 election cycle.

Employers who thrive in this environment will be those who find new and creative ways to engage and involve employees.  Although providing competitive total compensation will remain important for attracting and retaining top talent, organizations that emphasize high-quality communication and actively engage employees to participate in shared decision-making are more likely to achieve the coveted “destination employer” status.