Erik Loomis speculates on demographics and attitudes toward labor unions:
In 2011, lived memory of unions is fading. Younger workers may not even really know what a union is or have known anyone who was a union member. Older workers may, but may either be anti-union or have seen their union fail to keep their jobs secure in the face of deindustrialization and globalization. The kind of common knowledge about unions that existed in 1890 or 1930 or 1955 is gone. UFCW is smartly building from the bottom up, providing support, knowledge, and organizational skills for an organization that can today give solid advice for Wal-Mart workers and help them with a particular workplace problem and tomorrow may lead to the organization of the nation’s largest retailer.
I wonder is it really common for people to not know anyone who’s a member of a labor union? Even at only about 12 percent of the workforce I feel like you’d still need to be pretty isolated to be in that state. I normally think of myself as pretty out of touch, but my father’s in a union, Ezra Klein’s in the Newspaper Guild, I know a bunch of people who at least at one point in their life were in AFT or NEA, etc. I suppose it’s different if you live in a right to work state.
At any rate, people—even very pro-union people—tend to think of unions as somewhat “old fashioned” and have this sense that young people may be especially likely to be union skeptics. But according to Pew that’s not the case and the actual age structure of attitudes toward unions is similar to the age structure of attitudes toward marriage equality for gays and lesbians:
This may just be that young people are more left-wing in general. Or it may be that older cohorts’ views of labor unions are very impacted by labor’s role in the inflation of the 1970s