In One Chart: Support for labor unions hits 56-year high: ‘Workers have finally been recognized as essential’


An earlier version of this report had the wrong last name for the AFL-CIO’s president. The report has been corrected.

A Gallup poll is delivering good news for union organizers ahead of Labor Day, revealing that public support for unions in the U.S. has climbed to a 56-year high — even as membership remains low.

Gallup has found that 68% of Americans now approve of labor unions. That marks the highest level of support since a reading of 71% in 1965, though it’s statistically similar to last year’s level of 65%, the analytics company said.

The head of the country’s largest federation of unions said the latest polling makes sense in the wake of COVID-19’s arrival more than a year ago.

“It comes as no surprise that public support for unions continues to rise across the country,” said the AFL-CIO’s president, Liz Shuler, in a tweet.

“Union members have delivered for our communities throughout the country, as workers have finally been recognized as essential to our economy and society during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Meanwhile, membership in unions is holding steady, according to Gallup, with just 9% of U.S. adults reporting that they’re part of such organizations. In the early 1980s, membership was at just above 20%, according to the Labor Department.

Gallup noted that approval among Democrats has risen over the past year as President Joe Biden has promised to lead one of the most pro-union administrations ever. But the company also said some Republican politicians are supporting union issues amid former President Donald Trump’s appeal to many blue-collar workers.

Approval for unions is at 90% among Democrats, 47% among Republicans and 66% for independents.

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