Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Denial Isn’t just a River in Pittsburgh

Remember the talk your parents gave you about the “popular kids” in school? (I do.) It went something like: “Don’t worry about them. Popularity isn’t everything.”

While that might have been true for many a teenagers’ angst-filled years, it’s not the case for labor unions, who are at an all-time low in popularity.


According to a recent Gallup poll, a majority of Americans disapprove of labor unions and think they “hurt” the economy. Amazingly, union’s popularity is 6% lower than the movement’s previous low in 1981 following the Air Traffic Controllers strike.

Unfortunately, labor leaders are in denial. Last week, the AFL-CIO’s newly elected President Richard Trumka told the Investor’s Business Daily that he doesn’t “live by polls.” To put more of a point on it, he explained to the Wall Street Journal that the poll was a “bad poll”:

Sometime over the last few decades, the union movement has drifted from the mainstream. The AFL-CIO in the 1980s backed Poland’s Solidarity and stood with Ronald Reagan against the Soviets. Such a position seems impossible in today’s political climate. Detroit’s collapse created an additional image problem for the unions, whose deals over the decades helped make the Big Three uncompetitive. A shift in public opinion can be seen in a new Gallup poll. Less than half of Americans—48%—approve of labor unions, compared with 59% a year before.

Mr. Trumka doesn’t buy it. “It’s probably a statistical error, a bad poll,” he says.

Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEFAC