Survey Finds Mixed Opinions On Labor Unions

For Release at noon, March 4, 2004
Contact: David Denholm
Phone: 703-242-3575 ext 107
Fax: 703-242-3579

Survey Finds Mixed Opinions On Labor Unions

A public opinion survey released today finds that while the public generally favors labor unions it has concerns about their influence.

The survey, which was conducted by Zogby International for the Public Service Research Foundation, is unique in that it contains a substantial over-sample of union members allowing the opinion of union members to be contrasted with those of the general public on the same issues in the same survey.

The survey found that 63 percent of the public generally approves of labor unions and that 54 percent believe that they still play a necessary role in representing workers. The public also expresses more confidence in labor unions than employers on workplace issues like working conditions and wages but has more confidence in employers on issues like steady employment and worker productivity.

The survey also reveals strong public concern about issues that have been central to recent controversies involving unions. A strong majority, 71 percent, favors greater government efforts to protect union members from corrupt union officials through more detailed financial reporting. An identical 71 percent majority of union members also favors greater union financial disclosure. Organized labor has unsuccessfully resisted an initiative by Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to increase union financial disclosure.

Sixty-three percent of the public and 61 percent of union members favor allowing union members to object to the use of their dues for political and ideological purposes. This issue, generally referred to as “paycheck protection,” has been a major controversy in many states. Organized labor has spent millions of dollars opposing ballot propositions giving union members the right to withhold dues for political purposes.

The vast majority of the public, 73 percent, and a majority of union members, 54 percent, is opposed to requiring an employee to join or support a union as a condition of employment. Laws prohibiting compulsory membership or support for unions are known as “Right to Work” laws. Opposition to Right to Work laws is a top priority of organized labor.

Funding for the survey was provided to the Public Service Research Foundation by a grant from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

To download the full survey report, click here.