More and More Professionals Seeking to Unionize

The percentage of nonunion professionals who want to form a union in their workplace increased to 65% in 2022, according to a survey commissioned by the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE). Additionally, 63% of those who would support a union at work said they would talk to their co-workers about forming a union in the next year. 

“Across the country, we are seeing that school leaders want to organize at a higher level," said AFSA President Dr. Leonard Pugliese. "Our membership has grown by almost 20 percent, and we are continuing to organize new local groups."

Professionals employed in education had the highest level of union support among specific occupation groups, with 75% of education professionals saying they would approve a proposal for a union in their workplace. That number includes principals and other school leaders, who were included in the DPE survey after guidance from AFSA.

DPE last commissioned a survey of nonunion professionals' attitudes toward unions in 2016. Then, 60% of professionals surveyed said they would support a proposal for a union.

“Professionals continue to want a union,” said DPE President Jennifer Dorning. “Even before the pandemic, a majority of professionals were supportive of forming a union in their workplace, and now, with changes in work and the economy, more professionals recognize the need for a legally protected say in workplace decisions with a union.”

For specific demographic groups, support for forming a union was even higher, with 82% of Black or African American respondents and 76% of Hispanic or Latino respondents saying they would support a union proposal in their workplace. Young professionals also viewed unionizing more favorably, with 74% of respondents 18 to 34 years old saying they would approve of an effort to form a union in their workplace.

Computer and math professionals’ support for joining together in union has increased drastically over the years. DPE first surveyed computer and math professionals in 2005 and found that 33% would support a union in their workplace. In 2016, computer and math professionals’ union support increased to 59%, and now it has reached 62%. 

Other key survey findings include:

  • 78% of professionals would be in favor of joining together in union to improve salaries and raises.
  • Of professionals who were not required to perform in-person work during the first year of the pandemic, 69% said it was important that their union would work to improve work-from-home policies.
  • When it came to professionals’ attitudes toward management, nearly 45% of respondents disapprove of the salaries paid to executives compared with their own.
  • A majority of those surveyed knew at most only a little about unions. 

“Worker activism and the many recent organizing wins have helped return unions to the center of the national conversation about how Americans can improve their workplaces and their lives,” said Dorning. “However, too many professionals still don’t know how to take steps to form their own union in their workplace, which means we still have work to do to educate employees about the process of joining together in union and the benefits of a union contract.”

DPE commissioned the research firm Clarity Campaign Labs to conduct the scientific survey of nonunion professionals in late summer 2022. The survey contains responses from a representative sample of more than 1,800 nonunion professionals from across the United States.