Union interest on the increase

Survey finds almost half of U.S. non-union workers would sign to join one

 Steelworkers await a visit by President Trump at the U.S. Steel Granite City Works this summer. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Steelworkers await a visit by President Trump at the U.S. Steel Granite City Works this summer. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

U.S. citizens are showing increasing interest in joining a union, with almost half of a national survey of non-union workers saying they’d like to organize.

That was the finding of a survey released earlier this month by the PBS “NewsHour.”

The PBS survey, conducted with the National Opinion Research Corporation, found that interest in unions has shot up after remaining level for decades.

According to the survey, 48 percent of non-union U.S. workers said they’d sign to join one. That was up markedly from 32 percent in 1995 and 33 percent in 1977.

The PBS story granted that the current U.S. unionization rate found that 10.7 percent of workers belong to a union — half the level of 35 years ago.

Illinois remains a relatively strong union state, with 15 percent of workers unionized, but that was down from 16.6 percent a decade ago, with a loss of more than 100,000 union members over that time span.

Even so, interest in unions is rising, based in part on findings such as a recent Midwest Economic Policy Institute comparison showing that wages for workers were higher in strong union states like Illinois and Minnesota, compared against so-called right-to-work states like Wisconsin.

Earlier this year, Missouri voters rejected a right-to-work law in a referendum, after the state legislature had approved it and it had been signed by the governor.

Another recent Gallup poll found that public support for unions was at the highest level in 15 years, with 62 percent of those surveyed — more than three-fifths — saying they support unions.

The PBS study found that workers were particularly drawn to unions in workplaces where there was a “voice gap” between labor desires on matters like health care, wages, and scheduling and the amount of say they felt they actually had with their employer.

The story also found that unions had improved their public perception through their commitment to issues like a $15 minimum wage.