Views of union members vary widely based on age

February 16, 2017 | by Karin Sweigart

Recently, Prudential and the Economist teamed up to survey union members on their priorities, concerns, and views of the workforce. The full results can be found here, but one of the most notable opinion divides between baby boomers and millennial union members was on the percieved successes of labor unions. 

The authors of the report described the divide in these terms. 

Millennials tend to be less satisfied with union accomplishments, which suggests that their expectations are not being met. For example, while millennials and boomers agree that there has been solid progress in access to benefits (32% vs 34%) and fair wages (24% vs 25%) in their lifetimes, millennials are significantly less likely to say that unions have been in the forefront of this progress. For fair wages, only 34% of millennials say so compared with 47% of boomers. And for access to benefits the gap is even bigger: 28% vs 44%. Millennials are also less likely to rank labor unions among the top institutions that can improve the welfare of U.S. workers either today or in the future.

When respondents were asked which groups will play a critical role in protecting the future welfare of U.S. workers labor unions (55%) won top billing, but union members ranked workers themselves (51%) closely behind. The individualism and entrepreneurial spirit fueling the rise in the gig economy may be a force unions cannot counter as their traditional membership leaves the workforce.