US unions: the latest youth craze?
Well, they’re not in Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga’s league yet, but Harold Meyerson’s analysis of recent opinion poll data on the popularity of unions suggests some interesting demographic trends.
He’s surely right that the overall popularity of unions recovering to pre-crash levels of just above 50% is nothing special. Indeed I’ve always been a bit sceptical that such polls do more than give us comfort in bleak times: UK union popularity seems to move in almost direct contradiction to our strength and attractiveness, so we’re popular when we’re weak but unpopularity doesn’t stop people joining in droves when we’re strong.
But deeper into the article some more interesting facts emerge. The younger people who haven’t been joining unions in recent years are far better disposed to them than older workers. And Meyerson draws attention to the way that the last post-crash generation grew up in a world without strong unions, but built them, the American middle class and a welfare state of sorts.
I particularly *heart* this statement:
“Young people in the early 1930s—a time when union membership collapsed, along with the economy in general—didn’t have much personal exposure to unions either, yet they became the most pro-union generation in American history. What both these generations have in common is a far greater skepticism about the economy in general and a much stronger belief that the economy is rigged to ordinary workers’ disadvantage.”