Union, Yes or No? -- It Depends on How You Ask

05/25/2011 01:05 pm ET
  • Steve Rosenthal President, The Organizing Group; Former Political Director, AFL-CIO; Founder, America Coming Together

In my 30+ years working in politics, I have poured over more polling questionnaires than I care to remember. And if a pollster ever had the gall to put a question as ridiculous and misleading as the one in the new "poll" put out by the corporate-front-group otherwise known as the Center for Union Facts (CUF) - I would fire them on the spot.

The question posed was "do you want your job to be unionized?"

Issue #1: It asks if people want to have something done TO them, making them passive participants. The issue workers really face is would they vote to have a union in their workplace; therefore the proper question is "would you like to have a union represent you and your co-workers?" That appropriate language makes people active participants, allowing them a choice and framing the question to the reality of the situation.

Reality Check: 60 million U.S. workers say they would join a union if they could. In a nationally representative survey commissioned by the AFL-CIO, Hart Research Associates found that 53% of non-union workers employed for pay stated they would join a union if they could.

Issue #2: This poll did not screen people in the kind of jobs that could be unionized. Did their respondents include lawyers, Indian chiefs, supervisors, management employees, small business owners, workers in small businesses, and others who wouldn't be or couldn't be organized?

Reality Check: What this poll "clearly demonstrates" is its lack of seriousness and accuracy by including respondents who would likely never be unionized to begin with. According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), of the 140.5 million people in the civilian workforce, 33.5 million or 23.8% have no rights under the National Labor Relations Act or any other labor law. Furthermore, there were a little over 13 million managers and supervisors in 2005, and about 4 million small business workers without collective bargaining rights because they were employed by businesses too small to fall under the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board.

The CUF question was clearly designed to get the least number of people to say yes as possible.

The Employee Free Choice Act makes it easier for Employees - rather than Employers - to make that choice.

Again, Hart Research Associates has found that 78% of American adults support legislation that would make it easier for workers to bargain with their employers for better wages, benefits, and working conditions. 75% of adults favor allowing employees to have a union once a majority of employees in a workplace sign authorization cards indicating that they want to form a union.

Read more about the Employee Free Choice Act here.