New Survey Finds Union Political Activism the #1 Obstacle to U.S. Labor Movement

Sep 06, 2021

WASHINGTON, DC — A new American Compass report released today shows that U.S. labor unions are not what American workers bargained for: excessive political activism is the number one obstacle to robust organizing, and reforms aimed at cooperation and concrete economic benefits show the greatest promise for a reinvigorated labor movement. The survey kicks off a new collection, A Better Bargain, which presents concrete policy proposals aimed at reestablishing the labor organization’s role and expanding worker support, worker voice, and worker power.

The American Compass Better Bargain Survey, performed in partnership with YouGov, surveyed a representative sample of 3,000 working-age Americans on their attitudes about their jobs and organized labor; their appetite for greater support, voice, and power in the workplace; and their reactions to political messages and policy reforms.

The survey’s key findings include:

  • By a three-to-one margin, potential union members say they would prefer a worker organization that focuses only on workplace issues to one that is also engaged in national politics. Only 35% of non-unionized workers say they would vote for a union, citing political involvement as the top reason for voting no.
  • Fewer than one-in-three workers has a “secure” job, paying at least $40,000/year with predictable earnings, steady hours, and health benefits. Among workers without college degrees, that figure falls to one-in-five.
  • The key driver of satisfaction at work is not objective measures of job quality but rather the character of labor-management relations.
  • Workers prefer a worker organization run jointly by management and employees to one run by employees alone (63% to 37%) and prioritize collective bargaining, benefits and training, and workplace collaboration.
  • One policy proposal that earns especially broad support is a repurposing of the labor organization’s role: prohibiting political spending but allowing funding from employers and governments to provide training programs and benefits.

Click here to read the full report.