What Unions Do For Californians: Job Security, Health Insurance and Higher Wages

At a time when the news cycle is chock-full of reports about the recession, bank bail-outs and gubernatorial candidates throwing millions (and millions, and millions) of dollars at the 2010 election, we found a breath of fresh air: tangible proof that unionizing helps workers earn more money and receive better health care coverage! The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) issued a conclusive report this month providing evidence of the many benefits workers gain when they are able to unionize.  This report gathered information from the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS) and concluded that unionization is associated with a nationwide 15 percent increase in hourly wages (roughly $2.50 per hour), a 19-percentage-point increase in the likelihood of having employer-provided health insurance, and a 24-percentage-point increase in the likelihood of having employer-sponsored retirement plans.

What does this mean for Californians? California is home to over 2.6 million union workers (18 percent of the total state workforce). These unionized workers receive an average hourly wage of $25.88, compared to the non-union average of $21.70, proving that workers represented by unions typically earn considerably more than their non-union counterparts.

Union workers in California are also much more likely to benefit from employer-provided health insurance and employer-sponsored retirement plans than non-union workers. In California, nearly 80 percent of union workers have employer-provided health insurance while only 53 percent of non-union workers receive employer provided health insurance benefits. 38 percent of non-union workers have an employer sponsored retirement plan compared to nearly 75 percent of union workers benefitting from employer provided retirement plans.

The bottom line is that unionization substantially improves the pay and benefits for workers in every state across the nation. Workers who are given the opportunity to bargain collectively earn significantly more and are more likely to have benefits associated with good jobs. The CEPR’s report demonstrates that better protection of the workers’ right to unionize would have a tremendously positive impact on the pay and benefits of all workers in California. Let this serve as a call to action: we must urge congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act and ensure that fellow workers have the right to bargain collectively for better wages and health benefits. Learn more about the Employee Free Choice Act.