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New poll finds most nonunion workers uninterested in joining a union

A recent poll found that most nonunionized workers are disinterested in unionizing. 71% of Americans surveyed approve of unions, but 80% of nonunionized workers are neutral or disinterested in unionizing.

The results come after a 57% increase in union election petitions in the first half of 2021 and high-profile unionization efforts at corporations like Starbucks and Amazon.

68% of union members surveyed say membership is important or extremely important to them. Members cite better pay and benefits as the top reason for joining a union, though unionized salaries have increased more slowly than non-unionized salaries.

In the first half of 2022, unions won the most elections in 20 years.

Gallup reported, “While most nonunion workers are uninterested in joining a union, an increase in unionization efforts is still taking place…”

The data suggests a small subset of nonunionized workers may be driving workplace unionization. Elections are determined by total votes cast, so abstaining from voting is not a ‘no’ vote. And if the minority can sway the indifferent middle to vote for unionization (or to not vote at all), it is very difficult to remove the union later on.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management:

The NLRB does not accept decertification petitions for one year following a union’s initial certification by the NLRB. Also, when a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) has been reached, employees cannot ask for a decertification election during the first three years of the CBA except during a 30-day “window period” that is 60 to 90 days before the end of the contract…After the initial three years of a CBA, employees can file a decertification petition at any time. 

Teachers at Westinghouse Arts Academy in Wilmerding, PA are a rare example of a bargaining unit that was able to decertify their union just a few weeks ago. The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) unionized teachers at the school in 2020. The union had been unable to negotiate a contract, putting pay raises and bonuses on hold for two years. Their collective bargaining strategy pitted teachers against each other and created a hostile environment in a previously conflict-free workplace.

Things were so bad that teachers were willing to fight a month’s long battle against the powerful and well-funded union, all in their free time.

The Westinghouse teachers are not the norm. In 2021, there were 240 decertification petitions filed with the NLRB. Only half of those saw elections and even fewer – 75 – won decertification.

Isabel Blank

Isabel Blank is Communications Director at Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Prior to joining Americans for Fair Treatment in 2021, Isabel worked in media relations at Travelers Insurance and held government affairs and communications roles with Yankee Institute. She has a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish, both from the University of Connecticut (Go Huskies!). Isabel loves Crossfit and supporting her local Connecticut breweries.