It’s been a deeply complicated year for labor.
June’s Janus vs. AFSCME ruling by the Supreme Court was just the latest in a series of big blows to unions, and with the nomination of notoriously anti-labor federal judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, it looks like we’re headed for more of the same. But there have been reasons for hope, like the series of strikes and protests by teachers all across the country, even in some of the deepest red states in the country, and the decision by Missouri voters last month to nix the state’s proposed right-to-work law.
Here’s another silver lining: a poll released by Gallup today found that public support for labor is at 62 percent, which is the highest it’s been since 2003, when approval for labor sat at 65 percent. (30 percent disapprove of unions, the new poll shows, while 8 percent had no opinion.) Gallup also found that a plurality of people—39 percent, all of whom are cool and strong, and my friends—want labor’s influence to grow, while 26 percent said they’d want it to stay the same and 29 percent (bosses and scabs) said they want unions to have less influence.
In addition, Gallup found that a clear majority of nearly all of the “major U.S. subgroups”—based on age, region, education, party identification, and gender, although that was only broken down into male and female categories—supported labor, except one: fucking Republicans. Even fucking Republicans, however, are split pretty evenly on whether or not unions are good: 45 percent approve of them, while 47 percent disapprove.
There are some caveats, however. While support for labor continues to grow, it appears that most Americans believe the future for organized labor is bleak. 51 percent of respondents said that they think unions will grow weaker in the future, while about one in four said union strength would remain the same and less than one in five said labor would grow stronger.
And while Republicans are the only major group Gallup looked at that thumbs its nose at unions, they’re also the party firmly in control of every branch of the federal government and the majority of states, which has certainly helped in driving union membership across the country down to just 10.7 percent—roughly half of what it was in 1983. Then again, it’s probably not a coincidence that the approval rating of unions has climbed ten points since Gallup asked the same question in 2010, the year that the Tea Party backlash swept a bunch of anti-union legislators and governors into office.
People like unions. Whether or not it actually matters in this wonderful sham of a democracy we have, however, is another question altogether.