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Nearly 90 Percent of Young People Support Unions, Poll Finds

The AFL-CIO, which commissioned the poll, said the union had never seen support levels that high.

Los Angeles city workers holding placards gather at City Hall during a 24-hour strike over unfair labor practice on August 8, 2023, in Los Angeles, California.

As labor activity is surging across the country, polling has found that young people are saying they favor unions at overwhelmingly high levels — support that labor organizers say is “unprecedented.”

According to polling by GBAO conducted for the AFL-CIO, a whopping 88 percent of people under 30 say they approve of labor unions, while 90 percent say they approve of strikes. This is a far higher proportion of support than other groups, with 69 percent of those aged 30 to 49 supporting unions and 67 percent of those over 50 saying the same. Support for strikes is at 72 percent for both age groups.

This is an extraordinary show of support for the labor movement among young people, as the AFL-CIO noted. “Nearly 9 in 10 (88%) people under 30 view unions favorably,” the union wrote in a press release. “We’ve never seen a number that high, which is testament to the deep desire of young people to act collectively to demand respect and dignity on the job.”

Overall, the poll found that 71 percent of voters back unions. Approval cuts across party lines, with 91 percent of Democrats, 69 percent of independents and even a slim majority of Republicans, 52 percent, saying they back labor unions. Support for strikes is higher, at 75 percent overall.

The poll results were released as AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler and Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond delivered a State of the Unions address this week.

“The idea of a union may sound complicated, but in reality, unions are just a group of people coming together. They are about each of us becoming the most powerful version of ourselves that we possibly can,” Shuler said in her speech. “People in this country have been searching for their power for a long time now, young people especially.”

Indeed, people under 30 overwhelmingly agreed that it should be easier for people to form a union, at 70 percent, and that unions are needed now more than ever, at 77 percent. Seventy percent agreed with the statement that “society would be better with more people in a union.” Support for these statements was far lower among older voters, hovering around 50 percent.

“Every day, more and more working people are finding out that the labor movement is the solution to low wages and unsafe workplaces, to inequality and discrimination. That the labor movement is the only institution in America that has the infrastructure and reach to address and vanquish oppression in all its forms…. That life truly is better in a union,” said Redmond.

The polling comes as labor activity has reached a fever pitch. Workers at companies like Starbucks and Trader Joe’s have been unionizing locations across the U.S., while hundreds of thousands of workers have gone on strike or voted to authorize a strike this summer. Strikes by Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild contributed to July being one of the busiest months for strikes in several decades, one Washington Post analysis earlier this month found.

Meanwhile, thousands of workers may go on strike soon. Last week, 97 percent of workers at the Big Three automakers — Ford, General Motors and Stellantis — voted to strike if automakers can’t reach a deal with workers before their current contract expires on September 14. On Wednesday, flight attendants for American Airlines also voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, with over 99 percent approval.

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