August 22, 2019

By David Coletto

In our most recent national survey of 2,903 Canadian adults, we asked:

“If you had the choice between working in a job that was unionized or not unionized, which would you choose?”

Overall, slightly more Canadians would prefer to have a unionized job than one that is not unionized. 42% preferred a unionized workplace versus 39% who would want a non-unionized workplace. 19% were unsure.

When we compare results across different subgroups, some interesting differences (or not) emerge including:

  • There’s no gender gap on the question. The same proportion of men as women would prefer to be unionized, although women are 5-points more likely to say they are unsure.
  • There’s a slight relationship across age groups. Younger Canadians (18 to 29) are more likely to prefer to work in a unionized environment than older Canadians.
  • Those with a university degree are most likely to prefer working in a unionized workplace (46%) than those with college or those with high school or less. The difference those is more related to higher incidences of “unsure” responses among high school and college educated respondents.
  • Household income doesn’t seem to play much role either. Those in households making $50,000 or less are about as likely to want to work in a unionized environment as those living in a household earning $100,000 or more. In fact, those in the middle income bracket (earning between $50K and $100K) were the most likely to want to work in a unionized environment.

MOST UNION MEMBERS WOULD PREFER TO BE UNIONIZED.

We also find that a clear majority of those who are currently members of a union say they would prefer to work in a unionized workplace. 77% of those who say they are members of a public sector union and 67% of those in a private sector would rather be unionized than not, if given the choice.

Among those currently in the workforce and not in a unionized workplace, 27% would prefer to be unionized versus 53% who would rather not. 20% are unsure.

POLITICAL ORIENTATION DRIVES PREFERENCE FOR UNIONIZED EMPLOYMENT.

When we compare responses across federal party identification, we see more variation than across demographics or socio-economic status.

NDP partisans, not surprisingly, are the most likely to prefer working in a unionized workplace (51% vs. 31%). Although, noteworthy that about one in three NDP partisans would prefer a job that was not unionized. Liberal partisans are not far behind at 46%. Conservative partisans are the least likely to want to work in a unionized workplace, but a sizable minority (39%) would.

UPSHOT

We only have one question to analyze and no follow up questions, but the results point to a desire by many Canadians to work in a unionized workplace. Despite the fact that about 16% to 20% of Canadians are unionized, more would choose to be if they could.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any longitudinal data to assess whether this is higher or lower than in the past. But the lack of clear demographic or socio-economic drivers, but clearer political ones points to the politicized nature of union membership and the labour movement more broadly.

But with rising concerns about job security, precarious work, and the disruption in the economy, labour unions may have an opportunity to expand membership and reintroduce themselves to a new generation or workers who more than any other generation seem interested in unionizing.

METHODOLOGY

Our survey was conducted online with 2,903 Canadians aged 18 and over from August 14 to 20, 2019. A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 1.9%, 19 times out of 20.  The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

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