The resurgence of labor unions: a closer look at approval ratings and Gen Z’s support
In recent years, labor unions in the United States have been experiencing a resurgence in popularity and support. Two significant developments highlight this trend: the soaring approval ratings for labor unions, reaching their highest point since 1965, and the growing support from Generation Z, the newest generation entering the workforce.
According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2023, the approval ratings for labor unions have reached their highest point in nearly six decades. The poll revealed that 71% of Americans approve of labor unions, a level not seen since 1965. This resurgence in support is a significant departure from previous years, when union approval ratings hovered around 50%. The surge in approval can be attributed to several factors, including the increased focus on worker rights, income inequality, and labor’s role in addressing workplace issues.
Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012, is emerging as a force to be reckoned with in the labor movement. A Center for American Progress report sheds light on Gen Z’s growing union support.
“In a union, the young voices of workers find the symphony of solidarity, a chorus of dreams, and aspirations interwoven with determination,” said Brandon Dawkins, vice president of organizing for SEIU Local 1021. “Unions stand as the bridge between aspiration and realization for young souls, like Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee workers, nurturing ideas into concrete action. Their popularity stems from the promise of equality, where the voice of one amplifies into a chorus of change.”
This generation, now entering the job market, holds distinctly pro-union views. The report highlights that 73% of Gen Z workers believe unions are essential for protecting workers’ rights and improving working conditions. This level of support is notably higher than previous generations at the same age.
One significant factor contributing to the increased approval of labor unions and Gen Z’s support is changing attitudes toward collective bargaining. In recent years, high-profile labor strikes, wage disparities, and concerns over job security have drawn attention to the importance of collective bargaining. As a result, more Americans, including younger generations, recognize unions’ vital role in negotiating fair wages, benefits, and safe working conditions.
“Within the union, youth discovers the strength that arises from unity, forging bonds that cannot be broken,” continued Dawkins. “This power transcends the workplace, rippling through society, as young voices become the architects of a more just and equitable world. In unions, they find not only protection but also a canvas upon which they paint the vibrant colors of their collective future.”
While the resurgence of labor unions is encouraging, challenges remain. Union membership in the private sector has declined over the years, and organizing efforts in new industries such as technology and gig work present unique obstacles. Additionally, some states have passed legislation aimed at limiting union activities.
Nevertheless, the renewed interest in labor unions and Gen Z’s enthusiastic support provide opportunities for organized labor to adapt to the changing workforce and continue advocating for workers’ rights.
The surge in approval ratings for labor unions and the growing support from Generation Z signal a promising revival of the labor movement in the United States. As unions gain momentum and adapt to new challenges, they can be crucial in addressing workers’ concerns in the twenty-first century. The evolving landscape of labor unions in the U.S. reflects a broader societal shift toward valuing workers’ rights and ensuring equitable workplaces for all.