Worth $5,800 More Per Year
It’s long been known that union members earn higher wages and better benefits than non-union workers. Now, a new study quantifies just how much better it is to be empowered by collective bargaining.
“The Union Effect in California,” an analysis by the University of California at Berkeley Labor Center, offers new insights into the union advantage. While the study is limited to California workers, its findings should be largely applicable to the rest of the country.
Notably, “The Union Effect in California” found that:
- Workers covered by a union contract in California earn an average of 9 percent more than non-union workers with similar demographic characteristics and working in similar industries.
- Union workers earn on average an additional $5,800 more per year as a result of collective bargaining in California.
- Union coverage increases wages by 26 percent for women, 19 percent for African American workers and 40 percent for Latino workers in California.
- Unions increase the likelihood that a worker will receive employer-sponsored health insurance by 2 percent, compared to non-union workers with similar demographic characteristics and working in similar industries.
- Unions increase the likelihood a worker will be offered a retirement plan on the job by 5 percent, compared to non-union workers with similar demographic characteristics and working in similar industries.
- Union members are 1 percent less likely to live in a low-income family, and nearly 31 percent less likely to be in a family where at least one member is enrolled in a public safety net program or Medicaid.
In addition, the report notes the impact of California’s strong labor movement in enacting state policies that protect workers. “With the support and backing of labor, California has passed ambitious laws promoting the rights of workers—union and nonunion alike—as well as policies advancing the common good broadly,” the authors wrote. These include becoming the first state in the country to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour, passing a paid sick leave law, cracking down on wage theft, and strengthening workplace safety laws — most notably, a mandatory outdoor heat exposure regulation, making California the only state to have established a formal standard.
The study makes crystal clear that in this time of unprecedented attacks on the labor movement — most notably the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling — joining a union remains the best investment any worker can make in his or her living standards, health and retirement security, and workplace rights and safety.