Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Public Sentiment Turns to Unions

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Public Sentiment Turns to Unions

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Americans' sympathy in labor disputes has tilted toward unions over companies in the past couple of years, says an Associated Press poll taken at a time of job layoffs and economic uncertainty.

As Labor Day 2001 approaches, the public generally sides with the unions in disputes by a 2-to-1 margin, according to the poll conducted for the AP by ICR of Media, Pa. Respondents favored unions by a much smaller margin -- less than 10 percentage points -- two years ago when the economy was booming.

"I used to feel sorry for the companies because I thought a lot of the unions were asking too much," said Ted Sklany, a retired lab technician in Charlottesville, Va. "But the bottom line is that workers are usually getting the short end of the stick."

His support can depend on the issues in question, but he said, "If a union is striking for better benefits, I'm for them."

Young adults were more likely to side with the unions than people over 65, and those in the Northeast and Midwest were more likely than people in the South and West. Republicans were split, Democrats sided with unions by 3-to-1 and independents backed unions by 2-to- 1.

Besides any effects of the slumping economy, the tilt toward unions comes at a time when organized labor is in more of an underdog role with Republicans controlling the White House.

General approval for unions runs nearly 3-to-1, roughly the same as in recent years but higher than 20 years ago when it was less than 2-to-1.

Workers who have gone on strike in recent years include nurses at hospitals from Massachusetts to Minnesota, pilots at Comair, baggage handlers at United Airlines in Denver and workers at Verizon and The Seattle Times.

While public sentiment for the unions is on the rise, union membership is not.

The percentage of American workers belonging to unions fell last year to 13. …

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