Social Unionism, Public Relations, and Support for Unions: A Case Study of Public Opinion in Saskatchewan, Canada


  • Dave McGrane University of Saskatchewan
  • Loleen Berdahl University of Saskatchewan



Academic research on public attitudes towards unions in Canadian provinces is virtually non-existent. Using quantitative evidence from a Saskatchewan telephone survey, we demonstrate that public attitudes towards unions are more positive when the labour movement is perceived to be working for the betterment of all society and more negative when unions are perceived to be pursuing the narrow interests of their own members. Surprisingly, even though residents who are outside of the workforce receive no direct benefits from unions, they display more supportive attitudes toward unions than the employed. Two implications for the concept of Canadian social unionism flow from these findings. First, to the extent that Canadian social unionism stipulates that union activity benefits all of society, it is a good public relations strategy. Second, Canadian social unionism can become a way for the labour movement to appeal to the non-employed (retirees, students, full-time caregivers, and the unemployed) who are predisposed to be supportive of union struggles.