Thirty-five per cent of Air Force enlisted people and 16 per cent of the officers polled in the first such survey said they would join a military union if they had the chance.
Equally significant in view of those who conducted the Air Force poll is the large number of active duty people who are undecided, enough to constitute a possible majority for unionization, according to the survey obtained yesterday.
These and other findings are expected to impel both sides of the military union question to step up their efforts in coming months, with Congress trying to outlaw any organizing campaign.
The American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, voted at its convention in September to change its constitution to admit active military personnel into the union.
But AFGE president Kenneth Blaylock has said his union will not rush out to form locals within the military but will first develop a detailed organizational plan to submit to union members.
"If a majority votes for it," he said of the organizational plan, "we'll move. If they vote against it, we won't. It's that simple." The Air Force survey of how officers and enlisted people felt about unions was conducted by Lt. Col. T. Roger Manley, Maj. Charles W. McNichols and G. C. Saul Young while they were at the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
The Air Force released their report on the poll results yesterday after The Washington Post put in a formal request for it.
The report said questionnaires went out last year to 800 officers and 800 enlisted people to obtain an Air Force-wide sample. The responses of 519 officers and 417 enlisted persons were adjudged complete enough to form the basis for weighting and assessment.
"The data presented in this report are believed to be reasonably representative of the Air Force population," the authors said. Their report makes these points:
Enlisted personnel were significantly more pro-union than were officer personnel, 35 per cent vs. 16 per cent."
"An interesting phenomenon" was that 69 per cent of the officers who responded and 63 per cent of the enlisted people said any military union should not be restricted to enlisted people.
"Respondents expressed dissatisfaction with a perceived erosions of benefits, with pay raises which are considered to fail short of losses to inflation and with a perceived lack of representation of their interests with the Congress." They said military unions might reverse those adverse trends.
Sixty-five per cent agreed that military unions should stay out of "operational matters" - such as whether or not a hill should be assaulted in combat - and 75 per cent said that strikers would not be a legitimate weapon for collective bargaining.
"A surprising percentage" of non-commissioned officers, the sergeants who run the military day to day, said they either were undecided or would join a union.
"While the respondents resist the idea of military unionization, there does seem to be a belief that they could materially benefit from such an organization," the report said.
David Cortright, a staffer at the non-profit Center for National Security Studies, said yesterday that the poll is the first real indication of attitudes toward unionism within the military. Cortright himself advocates military unions, contending they would help prevent going into undeclared wars like Vietnam but would not be inhibiting during a declared war."
The Air Force as a service regards the study as the work of researchers rather than a department-wide project.
These were among the statements posed and the responses given in the survey of Air Force personnel :
I would join a union .(TABLE) (COLUMN)Officers(COLUMN)Enlisted(COLUMN)All Disagree(COLUMN)64%(COLUMN)32%(COLUMN)40% Undecided(COLUMN)20(COLUMN)33(COLUMN)30 Agree(COLUMN)16(COLUMN)35(COLUMN)30(END TABLE)
There is a need for a military union .(TABLE) Disagree(COLUMN)65(COLUMN)40(COLUMN)46 Undecided(COLUMN)15(COLUMN)26(COLUMN)24 Agree(COLUMN)20(COLUMN)34(COLUMN)30(END TABLE)
Military unionization is inevitable .(TABLE) Disagree(COLUMN)70(COLUMN)40(COLUMN)48 Undecided(COLUMN)13(COLUMN)29(COLUMN)24 Agree(COLUMN)17(COLUMN)31(COLUMN)23(END TABLE)
A military union could prevent the erosion of fringe benefits. (TABLE) Disagree(COLUMN)32(COLUMN)21(COLUMN)23 Undecided(COLUMN)12(COLUMN)17(COLUMN)16 Agree(COLUMN)66(COLUMN)62(COLUMN)61(END TABLE)
There is a need for a lobbying effort with the Congress in behalf of military personnel. (TABLE) Disagree(COLUMN)26(COLUMN)16(COLUMN)19 Undecided(COLUMN) 7(COLUMN)17(COLUMN)15 Agree(COLUMN)67(COLUMN)67(COLUMN)67(END TABLE)
A military union could solve problems which an individual on his own would be unable to solve. (TABLE) Dosagree(COLUMN)33(COLUMN)25(COLUMN)27 Undecided(COLUMN)12(COLUMN)18(COLUMN)17 Agree(COLUMN)55(COLUMN)56(COLUMN)56(END TABLE)
If military unions were established and recognized, the effectiveness of the Air Force would be :(TABLE) Increased(COLUMN)16(COLUMN)34(COLUMN)29 No effect(COLUMN)14(COLUMN)25(COLUMN)22 Decreased(COLUMN)70(COLUMN)41(COLUMN)49(END TABLE)
A military union would have a negative effect on discipline in the Air Force. (TABLE) Disagree(COLUMN)19(COLUMN)36(COLUMN)32 Undecided(COLUMN) 9(COLUMN)14(COLUMN)13 Agree(COLUMN)72(COLUMN)50(COLUMN)55(END TABLE)
A military union should have no say in operational matters. (TABLE) Disagree(COLUMN) 7(COLUMN)24(COLUMN)20 Undecided(COLUMN) 6(COLUMN)17(COLUMN)15 Agree(COLUMN)87(COLUMN)59(COLUMN)65(END TABLE)
The Air Force's success in attracting volunteers indicates it is the most popular armed service. Therefore, the desire to join a military union might be stronger in the other services.