Interest in labor unions has seemingly undergone a resurgence with major unionization pushes at companies like Starbucks, Amazon, and Trader Joe’s over the past few years. This week, faculty and staff at Rutgers University are set to begin a historic strike for the first time in the University’s 256-year history. Even with the momentum these movements appear to have generated, the proportion of U.S. workers belonging to a union is falling, outpaced by the growth of non-union positions.

With the landscape of labor unions in America gaining in notoriety while also growing ever complicated, how are Americans feeling today about labor unions? 

Support for labor unions is rising but divides sharply along political lines.

The latest CivicScience data show support for labor unions is up by two percentage points since October. More than half of U.S. adults (52%) say they ‘somewhat’ or ‘strongly’ support labor unions. Additionally, those who ‘strongly oppose’ them also fell slightly to 13%.

However, labor unions are a politically divisive topic, sharply contrasting along political lines. A significant majority of Democrat respondents (76%) and more than half of Independents (51%) favor labor unions, whereas Republicans are less likely to support them, with only 34% expressing approval.

Employee treatment weighs heavily on consumer purchasing decisions.

CivicScience data from January indicated consumers were possibly becoming less enthusiastic about brands taking social and political stances. However, how companies treat their employees looks to be a critical factor in consumer purchasing decisions. New data reveal 81% of consumers consider employee treatment to be at least  ‘somewhat important’ when deciding where they spend and shop. Notably, as many as 40% consider it ‘very important.’ 

With consumers attuned to how companies treat their workers, retaliation against unionizing employees is not going unnoticed. In fact, additional CivicScience data show nearly half of Americans (49%) report they are less likely to spend money at businesses that have taken retaliatory actions against unionization efforts.

Starbucks stores continue to unionize amid labor allegations as consumers keep a watchful eye.

Nearly 300 Starbucks stores nationwide have elected to form unions, but the process has not been a smooth one for the coffee giant.  Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz recently agreed to testify before Congress over allegations of labor violations surrounding the company’s response to employee unionization.

CivicScience data showing how companies manage unionization within their ranks is a cautionary tale. Among those favorable to some of the major companies with recent or ongoing unionization efforts, nearly half of each say they would be less likely to patronize businesses alleged to have fired employees for attempting to unionize. Trader Joe’s favorables are the least likely to spend money at a business following such allegations, with 1-in-2 feeling less likely to do so.

Interestingly, Trader Joe’s favorables also have the highest percentage of those who say they’re more likely spend at businesses alleged to have fired employees for unionizing. 

As unions continue to capture headlines, it’s evident that the unionization movement has the attention of consumers, and they’re becoming increasingly likely to leverage their purchasing power in response.

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