What do Americans Really Think About Labor Unions?

What do Americans Really Think About Labor Unions?

So, if you’re in HR, like me, you’re probably sitting back waiting with anticipation for the Supreme Court of the United States to deliver a very important ruling around labor unions in the case Janus vs. AFSCME. It’s a case challenging the practice of public sector unions charging “agency fees” to employees who decline to join the union but who still benefit from the deals it bargains. The fees are typically similar to, but a bit lower than, union dues.

I’ve long said, on this blog, I think labor unions, in America, are virtually useless and ineffective for modern workers. I say this because in modern American hiring practices if you’re a bad employer with bad employment practices, you won’t get talent (hourly or salary) and you’ll go into death a spiral as a company.

Workers today, don’t need protection like they once did in America. But, that’s just my stupid opinion, and as soon as I say that someone always sends me an article or tells me of some bad company or industry where workers still do need protections. I get it! It’s not all or nothing, but you can’t tell me that unions today or doing the same work of the unions of our grandparents and great-grandparents!

Because of this Janus case, APM Research did a recent study to find out what Americans really think about this issue of should an employee be forced to pay union dues, or at least their fair share, or like the 28 states already have laws on the books, should employees be Right-for-Work which allows them to decide if they pay dues or not to work in those jobs?

Here’s what APM Research find? 

-Americans are evenly split in their preference for “fair share” (mandating some dues of all union workers) as opposed to “right-to-work” (where each worker covered by union contract may opt out of paying dues) policy regarding unionization.

– Democrats are in support of “fair share” more often, and Republicans are in support of “right to work” more often. No surprise!

– Surprisingly, lower educated workers (those you would think would be in support of unions) actually are more in support of right-to-work. Why? Probably because lower educated workers tend to make less money and if you make $15 per hour, a union taking “$X” out of that small $15 per hour doesn’t feel good at all! Basically, low-income workers, who are under a union contract, don’t see enough value in those dues to see it worth their while in paying.

– “Fair Share” is favored by about 60 percent of those who have direct union experience themselves or through a household member, and those living in North Eastern states. So, those with actual union experience more often see value in paying those dues.

– Stronger unions are preferred by at least two-thirds of women. Which clearly speaks to the historic employment injustices that most women still feel today.

– A majority of Americans (62%) indicate that “stronger” unions would be better for the country; only one-quarter indicate a preference for “weaker” unions.

Like with any study, you have to look at the sample. APM asked 1,000 American adults, so not huge, but it should be enough to representable, but we don’t know the demographic data behind the sample.

The crazy part about all of this is only 12% of full-time workers in America are covered by unions! So, if you ask 1,000 workers about unions, only 120 of them are even in union jobs. So, we, as Americans, have very strong views about unions, positive and negative, without much experience in actually working in or with unions in our careers.

Keep an eye out for the Janus decision! I’m sure the HR world will light up with opinions on what it means for the future work environment for millions of workers nationwide.