Unions Improve the Lives of All Working People

Truth Exposed in New Report by the Economic Policy Institute

August 31, 2017

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Postal workers know first-hand that union jobs are good jobs. Unions help workers join together and bargain with their employer for better wages, benefits and working conditions. However, unions also stand up for the rights of workers who are not currently in a union. They are a rising tide that lifts all boats.

According to the Economic Policy Institute’s report How Today’s Unions Help Working People, unions are under attack at a time when they are needed more than ever. “Unions raise workers’ wages and strengthen their rights at work, but they also give working people a voice in our democracy,” said EPI President Lawrence Mishel.

Union Strong

A union’s strength comes from its members. The report explains that “working people in unions use their power in numbers to secure a fairer share of the income they create.” Union members earn an average 13.2 percent more in wages than non-union workers with similar education, occupation and experience in the same sector.

However, unions also help raise wages across entire sectors of the economy. “Workers who are empowered by forming a union raise wages for union and nonunion workers alike. As an economic sector becomes more unionized, nonunion employers pay more to retain qualified workers and norms of higher pay and better conditions become standard,” says the report. 

Additionally, unions raise the incomes of groups who are often economically disadvantaged in the U.S. According to the report, as of 2016, about 10.6 million of the 16.3 million union members are women and/or people of color. More than a third (35.8 percent) are black, Hispanic, Asian or other nonwhite demographic. Almost half (46.3 percent) are women. 

‘Rebuild’ the System 

Elected officials routinely pass legislation that strangles collective bargaining rights – and the results are clear. In 2016, only 10.7 percent of workers belong to a union, compared to about 35 percent in the mid-1950s. 

Workplace organizing campaigns also come with challenges. Between the 1990s and the early 2000s, the likelihood that an employer would use 10 or more union-busting tactics in its anti-union campaign doubled. “Sixty-three percent of private employers interrogate workers about union support in mandatory one-on-one meetings between workers and their supervisors, and 54 percent of employers threaten workers in such meetings,” the report added.

However, almost half (48 percent) of those polled for the report said they would vote to join a union in their workplace tomorrow. Young workers support unions, as well: 55 percent of workers polled aged 18 to 29 said they view unions favorably, compared to 46 percent of workers aged 30 and older.

“Unions – when strong – have the capacity to tackle some of the biggest problems that plague our economy, from growing economic inequality, wage stagnation, and racial and gender inequities to eroding democracy and barriers to civic participation…we must work together to rebuild our collective bargaining system,” the report concludes. 

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