Fact Sheet | Race and Ethnicity

Working people want a voice at work

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There is a huge gap between the share of workers with union representation (12.1%) and the share of workers who would like to have a union and a voice on the job. As shown in Figure A, almost half of nonunion workers polled in 2017 (48%) said they would join a union in their workplace tomorrow if they got the chance. That’s 50% higher than in 1995, when 32% of those surveyed said they would vote for a union.

In addition, a 2020 Gallup poll finds that 65% of Americans approve of labor unions—the highest percentage in 16 years (see Figure B). And, as shown in Table 1, young adults (ages 18–34) support unions at an even higher level—71% compared with the overall average of 65%.1

Figure A

Interest in joining unions is high: The share of U.S. workers who don’t belong to a union but say they would join one if they could, selected years

Year Percentage of nonunion workers who would vote to join one
1977 33%
1995 32%
2017 48%
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Source: Thomas A. Kochan et al., “Worker Voice in America: Is There a Gap Between What Workers Expect and What They Experience?” ILR Review 72, no. 1 (January 2019): 3–38, https://doi.org/10.1177/0019793918806250.

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Figure B

Public approval of labor unions continues to trend above 60%: Share of poll respondents who say they approve of labor unions, 2004–2020

Year % Approve
2004 59%
2005 58
2006 59
2007 60
2008 59
2009 48
2010 52
2011 52
2012 52
2013 54
2014 53
2015 58
2016 56
2017 61
2018 62
2019 64
2020 65
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Source: Adapted from Megan Brenan, “At 65%, Approval of Labor Unions in U.S. Remains High,” Gallup website, September 3, 2020.

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Table 1

Majorities in major U.S. subgroups approve of labor unions: Share of poll respondents who say they approve of labor unions, by gender, age, and education, 2020

Approve Disapprove No opinion
U.S. adults 65% 30% 5%
Gender
Men 63% 33% 3%
Women 67% 27% 6%
Age
18–34 71% 25% 4%
35–54 63% 31% 6%
55 and older 63% 33% 4%
Education
College graduate 68% 29% 3%
Some college 62% 31% 6%
No college 65% 31% 5%

Source: Adapted from Megan Brenan, “At 65%, Approval of Labor Unions in U.S. Remains High,” Gallup website, September 3, 2020.

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Note

1. Megan Brenan, “At 65%, Approval of Labor Unions in U.S. Remains High,” Gallup website, September 3, 2020.


See related work on Race and Ethnicity | Collective bargaining and right to organize | Unions and Labor Standards