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Young People Back Labor Unions by 2-to-1 Margin

More American side with public sector unions than side with the Republican governors around the country who are trying to take away the union’s collective bargaining rights according to the newest Gallup poll. The poll found 48 percent agree more with the state employee labor unions, while 39 percent agree with the governors.

And young people side overwhelming with the labor unions–by a greater than two-to-one margin.

With Whom Do Americans Agree More -- Governors or State Employee Unions -- in State Disputes? Among Key Subgroups, March 2011

Why younger Americans so overwhelmingly back the public sector labor unions is an interesting question given that the age group is the least likely to actually be part of a public sector labor union.

Part of it could be that this has obviously become a very partisan issue, and young people tend to support Democrats, but that in itself isn’t a sufficient explanation because the partisan split among young people isn’t that large.

I have a purely personal suspicion as a member in this age group, I suspect my peers don’t buy–or are scared to let themselves believe–this “middle class in decline” argument the Republican governors are using to justify their attacks on unions. I remember one of the governors defending his actions by saying how everyone else in the middle class has slowly been paying more for health care and getting worse retirement packages, so public sector unions should. too. Basically, the argument was the rest of the middle class dream is dying, so the fair thing to do is drag the unions down with everyone else.

As a young person who eventually wants to start a family, I know sky high unemployment in my age group makes it extreme difficult to establish a career that can pay for that. This message of life getting worse and less secure for working people is our destiny is extremely bleak. Instead of being jealous of public sector unions and wanting to tear them down, young people are “jealous,” but desperately want to make sure a quality middle class lifestyle can still be available to some.

I believe there is the potential for a powerful young-progressive-labor alliance in the simple message: The future doesn’t need to get suckier for the middle class.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at