Labor unions are about a simple proposition: By joining together, working women and men gain strength in numbers so they can have a voice at work about what they care about. They negotiate a contract with their employer for things like a fair and safe workplace, better wages, a secure retirement and family-friendly policies such as paid sick leave and scheduling hours. They have a voice in how their jobs get done, creating a more stable, productive workforce that provides better services and products.
Historically, unions have accomplished many things for all working people that we now take for granted. Things like the eight-hour work day, minimum wage, child labor laws, unemployment insurance, Social Security and worker health and safety laws all were the direct result of union advocacy. Even Labor Day was created by unions.
But union accomplishments aren’t just a thing of the past. Today, labor unions are at the forefront of defending workers’ rights and creating opportunities for workers to pursue the American Dream. Always adapting to the challenges of our nation’s evolving workforce, unions are meeting the needs of workers in today’s flexible and nontraditional work environments. Because no matter what type of job workers are in, by building power in unions, they can speak out for fairness for all working people in their communities and create better standards and a strong middle class across the country.
The advantages to being in a union are clear. Union members earn better wages and benefits than workers who aren’t union members. On average, union workers’ wages are 27 percent higher than their nonunion counterparts. Unionized workers are 60 percent more likely to have employer-provided pensions.
More than 85 percent of union workers have jobs that provide health insurance benefits, but only 54 percent of nonunion workers do. Unions help employers create a more stable, productive workforce—where workers have a say in improving their jobs.
Unions help bring workers out of poverty and into the middle class. In fact, in states where workers don’t have union rights, workers’ incomes are lower.
In nearly every occupational category, workers who are not members of unions have smaller paychecks than union members. By comparing the wages of workers within occupational groups, the cost of not being able to bargain collectively is clear.
The problem in today’s economy isn’t that workers have too much power. It’s that they have far too little. Years of anti-union laws and unchecked corporate power have diminished the labor movement. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. If more workers had the ability to stand together to bargain with employers for better wages and benefits, income inequality would decline. The middle class would grow. And a new era of economic prosperity would flourish.
Unions are more relevant today than they ever have been. With corporate power at an all-time high, America’s workers deserve and need the power to fight back. That power comes through a union.
Click here to download the National AFL-CIO’s Union Difference fact sheet.