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Labor Day 2019: State of the U.S. Labor Unions

Broadly speaking, the landscape for U.S. labor relations heading into the 2019 Labor Day Weekend remains a mixed bag for organized labor. Data in Gallup’s annual poll tracking public support for labor unions indicates support for unions is growing.

According to Gallup: “Sixty-four percent of Americans approve of labor unions, surpassing 60% for the third consecutive year and up 16 percentage points from its 2009 low point. This comes 125 years after President Grover Cleveland signed a law establishing the Labor Day holiday after a period of labor unrest in the U.S.”

While approval is still down from the nearly 70 percent average unions enjoyed in the 1930s, it appears to be on the upswing. Last year’s labor union approval rate was 62 percent, up from 61 percent in 2017 and 56 percent in 2016.

Gallup data aside, unions are having a tough time gaining and retaining new members. Private sector union membership in the U.S. remains at a near all-time low of 6.4 percent. One need look no further than the drastic decline in the ranks of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union reported earlier this year – a 10% decline – to confirm the challenges on this front. The UAW President’s home was raided in possible connection to a criminal probe earlier this week as well.

Public sector unions still are grappling with the Supreme Court’s Janus decision on union dues from last year. Many legal battles continue on this front.

A very varied landscape heading into the holiday weekend. Happy Labor Day!

© 2020 BARNES & THORNBURG LLPNational Law Review, Volume IX, Number 242


About this Author

David J. Pryzbylski, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Indianapolis, Labor Law Attorney

David concentrates a large portion of his practice on assisting employers with traditional labor matters. His deep experience includes collective bargaining, work stoppages, arbitrations, union avoidance training and strategies, union representation elections, unfair labor practice charges, contract administration, and various other labor relations issues.

David has helped companies secure favorable outcomes with labor issues around the country. He has experience with numerous labor unions, including the Steelworkers, Teamsters, Laborers, Sheet...