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The People Are On Our Side

Daniel Hinton's picture
Sep 03, 2015

Last month, the most recent Gallup poll on labor unions' national approval showed their ratings are undeniably on an upswing. For the first time since before the Great Recession, 58 percent of Americans approve of labor unions.

Though the question polled ("Do you approve or disapprove of labor unions?") may be vague, the results aren't. Since 1936, Gallup has reported a majority every time — save for one poll in 2009, when a record low 48% said they approved of labor unions.

A lot has happened before then and since. Gallup first probed Americans' opinions on unions in 1936. In the middle of recovering from the Great Depression and a year after the NLRA became federal law, the vast majority of Americans supported labor unions. For the most part, that would remain the case through the post-war economic boom and the volatile 60s.

When the American economic machine slowed down and stagnated during the 70s, the backlash against unions began. Their national approval rating went from 71 percent in May 1965 down to 55 percent in 1979 and 1981, at the time of Reagan's presidential election.

By the end of the 90s and early 2000s, after the longest period of economic growth in U.S. history, Americans were starting to view unions favorably again. George W. Bush's two-term presidency and the most recent recession reversed all that, dealing two huge blows from which the labor movement is just beginning to recover.

Today, union numbers and power are growing. The Fight for 15 and a Union movement, as well as others, have revitalized organized labor.

This isn't going to stop here. The labor movement, not just the graph, has turned a corner for the better.

For more on this, listen to UCOMM Radio with Kris LaGrange this Sunday night at 9 p.m. on 770 WABC for our 2-hour Labor Day Special.

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