Boomer union members might have relied on their unions to hold the line on retirement benefits, but millennials are looking toward other areas where they believe unions should step up.
That’s according to the study “Union Perseverance: Taking the Pulse of America’s Union Workers,” commissioned by Prudential Retirement from The Economist Intelligence Unit.
It finds that millennials are more likely than boomers to cite the cost of retirement as negatively affecting workers, at 43 percent compared with 36 percent, and are more focused on immediate needs and expenses, such as wages, the cost of health care and the availability of training.
While concerns over retirement costs rank third overall among younger workers, after health care and low/stagnant wages, older worker’ third-place concern is the migration of jobs out of the country.
Boomers are the most concerned age group about retirement costs, at 39 percent, followed by GenXers at 38 percent and millennials at 37 percent, but what really worries boomers is the cost of health care, with 68 percent citing it as the top factor affecting the opportunities of American workers.
Considered overall, most members say unions should focus on negotiating wages and benefits (58 percent) and protecting the security of pensions and other employee benefits (51 percent), as well as job security (41 percent).
In addition, 72 percent of respondents agree at least somewhat (31 percent strongly agree, 41 percent somewhat agree) with the proposition that “advocacy for workers will remain important to future generations.”
Millennials’ expectations for unions—and of the overall workplace—are higher than, and different from, those of other age groups. They’re less satisfied with union accomplishments, too, implying that their expectations are not being met.
Millennials and boomers agree that there has been solid progress in access to benefits (32 percent, compared with 34 percent) and fair wages (24 percent, compared with 25 percent) in their lifetimes.
But millennials are considerably less likely to say unions have been out in front of the fight.
Only 34 percent of millennials think unions have led on fair wages, compared with 47 percent of boomers, and even fewer millennials (28 percent) believe unions’ advocacy on access to benefits has led the way, compared with 44 percent of boomers.
While millennials have different expectations of unions, that doesn’t mean they think unions’ days are over.
Asked which aspects of work life unions should focus on for future generations, the study says, millennials are more likely than older workers to emphasize retirement benefits (32 percent compared with 22 percent), working hours (32 percent compared with 17 percent) and future work trends (24 percent compared with 16 percent).