Report | Unions and Labor Standards

Do workers still want unions? More than ever

Briefing Paper #182

Download PDF

In the mid-1990s, the Worker Representation and Participation Survey (WRPS) of U.S. private sector workers documented a large gap between the kind and extent of workplace representation and participation that U.S. workers had and the kind they desired (Freeman and Rogers 1999 and 2006). The WRPS revealed that this sizable representation/participation gap spanned diverse groups of workers (men and women, different races, skilled and unskilled, etc.) and work issues (compensation, supervision, training, availability of information on firm plans, use of new technology, etc.). Given a choice between a union and no representation, 32% of nonunion workers reported that they would vote for a trade union in a representation election; while 90% of unionized workers said they would vote for their union in a new election. In the sample as a whole, 44% of workers favored union representation. Even among those who did not seek union representation and collective bargaining there was a large group who desired representation through worker committees that met regularly and discussed matters with management.

See related work on Unions and Labor Standards

See more work by Richard B. Freeman