Americans still support unions — even if they don’t belong to one

By Kate Gibson

August 31, 2018 / 2:03 PM / MoneyWatch
Organized labor has continued to lose members, but still retains the support of a majority of Americans, according to a Gallup poll released Thursday. Sixty-two percent of Americans approve of unions, with a majority backing them regardless of gender, education, age or place of residence, the survey shows.

Where opinions divide, not surprisingly, is along party lines: 80 percent of Democrats voice support for collective bargaining rights, versus only 45 percent of Republicans, found the nationwide survey of roughly 1,000 adults, conducted earlier in August.

Support for unions among both Democrats and Republicans fell sharply in 2009 in the aftermath of the recession. But sentiment toward labor has improved as the economy recovered, Gallup noted.

Although most Americans approve of unions, they also remain wary of organized labor, the survey shows: Well under half of respondents, at 39 percent, want unions to exert greater influence in the U.S., while 29 percent think they should have less sway.

Gallup
Overall, the American public has supported organized labor since Gallup first started tracking it in 1936, when the labor movement was in its early stages. During the 1950s, U.S. support reached 75 percent, and union membership peaked at 28 percent in 1954, Gallup said. Around a quarter of workers belonged to unions until 1972.

As of 2017, some 34 percent of public-sector employees were unionized, while less than 7 percent of private-sector workers were union members, labor data show.

While American attitudes toward unions are mixed, many experts attribute stagnant worker pay over the last four decades in part to eroding collective-bargaining power.

Speaking last week at a luncheon at the Kansas City Federal Reserve’s annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Princeton University economist Alan Krueger noted that wage growth this year remains tepid despite the low rate of unemployment. He suggested the decline of unions has stripped workers of the leverage they need to negotiate better pay raises from employers.

“My theme is that declining worker bargaining power can help explain the puzzle du jour of relatively weak wage growth despite historically low unemployment in the U.S.,” Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Obama administration, said in prepared remarks.

Another factor holding down wages is the fact the the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour has not changed since 2009, Krueger also said.

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UPDATE | GM details plan to sell Lordstown plant to Workhorse

Published May 8, 2019 at 11:40 a.m.
Updated May 8, 2019 at 2:34 p.m.

DETROIT — General Motors Co. said the move to sell its Lordstown facility to electric vehicle-maker Workhorse Group Inc. “has the potential to bring significant production and electric vehicle assembly jobs to the plant,” in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

Governor on future of GM Lordstown plant
Video Image Link | Published: May 8, 2019 at 2:02 p.m.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted spoke today about the potential sale of the General Motors facility in Lordstown.
“This potential agreement creates a positive outcome for all parties involved and will help solidify the leadership of Workhorse’s role in the [electric vehicle] community,” said Workhorse CEO Duane Hughes.

Continue reading “UPDATE | GM details plan to sell Lordstown plant to Workhorse”

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Some 3,000 GM Workers Face Layoffs: Report

Some 3,000 GM Workers Face Layoffs: Report

DETROIT, MI — General Motors hoped at least 7,000 white-collar workers would sign up by noon Monday for a buyout offer, but managers told employees last week that it was likely to fall short, raising the prospect of significant layoffs, according to reports.

The number volunteering for the offer is likely be closer to 4,000 based on estimates by an actuary, some GM employees said managers told them, the Detroit Free Press reported.

That means 3,000 or more salaried workers in North America could be terminated starting in January if the automaker in fact opts for forced job cuts, which it has said it would consider if buyouts fell short.

General Motors has a salaried workforce of about 50,000 employees, reports say. Nearly 18,000 of those employees qualified for a buyout offer that included six months pay and six months of healthcare coverage.

The automaker announced the buyout offer on the same day it reported $2.5 billion in 3rd quarter profits. The company has been disciplined on costs and has enjoyed strong SUV and truck sales.

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