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Is Gen Z the reason behind growing support for unions?

Posted at 5:48 AM, Sep 20, 2023

This year appears to be the year of the union, with organized labor showing its power in a big way.

From actors and writers in Hollywood, to the UAW, to grad students at the University of Michigan, unions have been making their voices heard.

These unions are also getting serious support. According to a recent Gallup poll, 67% of Americans approve of labor unions.

That's a significant increase from when union approval was at an all-time low of 48% back in 2009 after the Great Recession. Generation Z might be behind the recent boom in popularity.

Union membership was at it's peak in the 1970s, but as other generations entered the workforce, favorability dropped. But now, organized labor among Gen Z is more popular than ever.

Workers at organizations around the country like Starbucks, Amazon, Uber and Lyft have rallied to form new unions.

"Social media is why we're so well informed about these abuses and the over-workings of people and not being paid fairly and everything," Wayne State student Callie Maloey said. "Because of being so informed, it's easier to sympathize with people."

The reason is their unique experiences and concerns and the altering dynamics of the American workforce, especially when it comes to the treatment of employees and how much they get paid.

Sen. Gary Peters, a Democrat from Michigan, said said the unions have popularity unlike anything since the 1960s.

"People have realized the system has been stacked against them. The middle class is under a lot of stress right now," Peters said.

Austin Johnson, 21, works at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne. He has a long family history with Ford. His mom works at the plant and his grandfather and great-grandfather worked for Ford.

Johnson, who was worked for Ford for two years, walked out last week after contract negotiations failed and his union local was called to strike.

"I am a tier two employee. I want to get rid of tiers and completely cancel that, and that's why I am here and striking for," he said.

In a recent AFL-CIO poll, 88% of people under 30 view unions favorably, as do 91% of Democrats, 69% of Independents and 52% of Republicans.

Sage Webb, a student at Wayne State whose brother and mother work on the assembly line, said he is pro-union because of what he has seen.

"I have been in different factories where they don't really care about people and I think unions support people and help support those workers," he said.

The majority of students we spoke with off-camera say they were in support of better healthcare, higher pay and cost-of-living adjustments.