88% – A Number to Inspire and Harness


By GRAHAM TRAINOR, Oregon AFL-CIO president

Graham Trainor
Graham Trainor

Talk of unions and labor actions is everywhere.  Every media outlet, every city, and every sector is seeing historic acts of bravery by working people who are putting it all on the line for fairness and dignity.  National and local strikes are capturing the imagination of the public and giving others hope that they too can stand up against bully bosses and greedy CEOs.  Bravery breeds bravery.  Boldness breeds boldness.  And this hot solidarity summer has been nothing short of extraordinary as hundreds of thousands of workers across the American economy have either gone on strike or come close to walking off the job.  There’s not a single group of workers looking at their contract expiration or gearing up for bargaining that doesn’t have a strike on their mind. 

There’s a lot of talk about how folks feel about this moment for the labor movement.  But let’s also look at some actual data that puts a finer and more specific point on this narrative. 

New polling done by GBAO for the national AFL-CIO came out just before Labor Day that does just that. Across the board, this poll suggests that registered voters strongly see unions as beneficial, more needed now than ever, and yet harder to join.  This support transcends partisan groups, and union support among young voters is through the roof.  Some of the important key findings in the poll include: 

  • An overwhelming majority supports unions and strikes, even majorities across the political spectrum.  71% approve of labor unions, while less than 19% disapprove.  Support for strikes is even higher, at 75%. 
  • The want and need for unions is greatest among those newest to the workforce:  voters under 30.  88% approval of labor unions and 90% support for strikes among young people. 

These numbers show overwhelming, historic support for unions at a time when there’s more labor organizing and activism than we’ve seen in generations. 

America knows that it’s better in a union. 

Now let’s go back to that jaw-dropping support for unions and strikes among young people.  Some of the most exciting organizing that’s happening in this country is being spurred by Gen Z workers at coffee shops, on college campuses, in warehouses, and beyond. This level of support shows that young Americans don’t view unions as part of the past but rather see standing together in a union as a critical pathway to a better future. 

The American people recognize workers are getting the short end of the stick and want to see corporations treat working people fairly, even if that means workers striking.

The bottom line is this: America supports labor and views unions as critical to growing the middle class and providing opportunities for working people to thrive. This unprecedented level of public support puts the wind at our back as we fight for policies that strengthen families and work to elect candidates who will put working people first.

Also, it’s a word of warning to corporate union-busters:  The public won’t stand for you crushing our right to form and join unions. The American people show strong support for—and solidarity with—workers fighting to join a union to secure a better life.

With historic opportunities before us, and young people doubling down in their support for and  understanding that our movement is the greatest force for taking on corporate greed and making our economy more fair and just, this is our moment to harness.  Are you ready?  See you on the picket line!


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