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Are Unions Experiencing a Renaissance? Not Quite

Are Unions Experiencing a Renaissance? Not Quite


In 2023, labor union approval in the U.S. exceeded its long-term average for the fifth consecutive year. And in three notable labor disputes of 2023 -- United Auto Workers, the Hollywood writers strike and the actors strike -- the majority of the public sided with the workers.

In fact, Americans’ approval of unions has been rising for the past decade. And when we ask more questions about unions, we see this support is not superficial.

  • 61% say unions help rather than hurt the U.S. economy (a record high)
  • 43% want unions to have more influence in the country (another record high)
  • 34% predict unions will become stronger than they are today (a recent surge after two decades hovering around 20%)

So, are unions experiencing a renaissance? Not quite.


Union membership remains in long-term decline

Amid surging support for unions, union membership as a percentage of the workforce reached a record low in 2022, the last year of published data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1 And this decline has been steady for decades, unaffected by the highs and lows of public approval.


This may surprise those familiar with high-profile labor organizing at major corporations in recent years. The reality is that, although the absolute number of union members has risen, nonunion jobs have increased faster.2

Gallup data support the apparent lack of worker demand for joining a union. Although 17% of workers are highly interested in joining a labor union, six in 10 U.S. employees say they are “not interested at all,” unchanged from 2022.

Union workers remain committed

Although the percentage of labor union members has been declining, for those who are already union members, membership is growing in value. In 2022, four in 10 union members said their membership was “extremely important.” In 2023, those who saw their membership as “extremely important” rose to five in 10.

More committed union members and surging public support are likely to strengthen unions in the workforce and U.S. economy for the foreseeable future.

Stay up to date on the latest data on workers and workplaces.


Ryan Pendell is a Senior Workplace Science Editor at Gallup.

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