Feel the benefit: union workers receive far better pay and rights, Congress finds

Study shows unionized workers earn 10.2% more than non-union peers, amid wave of organizing at some of largest US employers

Workers represented by labor unions earn 10.2% higher wages than their non-union peers, have better benefits and collectively raise wages industry-wide, according to a report released by the House and Senate committees on Friday and first shared with the Guardian.

Joe Biden has pledged to be the most pro-union president in generations, and the report outlining the economic benefits of union membership was released as his administration pushes for legislative and executive-action efforts to support workers’ rights to organize.

According to the report, by the joint economic committee of Congress and the House education and labor committee, unionized workers are also 18.3% more likely to receive employer-sponsored health insurance, and employers pay 77.4% more per hour worked toward the cost of health insurance for unionized workers compared with non-unionized workers.

Labor unions have also contributed to narrowing racial and gender pay disparities; unionization correlates to pay premiums of 17.3% for Black workers, 23.1% for Latino workers and 14.7% for Asian workers, compared with 10.1% for white workers. Overall, female union workers receive 4.7% higher hourly wages than their non-union peers and in female dominated service industries, union workers are paid 52.1% more than non-union workers.

“Unions are the foundation of America’s middle class,” said congressman Don Beyer, chair of the Joint Economic Committee. “For too long, the wealthy have captured an increasing share of the economic pie. As this report makes clear, unions help address economic inequality and ensure workers actually see the benefits when the economy grows.”

The Biden administration’s drive to increase union membership comes amid a wave of organizing among workers at some of America’s largest employers, including Amazon and Starbucks.

But despite the recent uptick in organizing, union membership has declined markedly in recent decades, from 34.8% of all US wage and salary workers in 1954 to 10.3% in 2021. According to several studies the decline has contributed significantly to increasing wage inequality and stagnation.

Corporate practices and legal changes have also eroded workers’ bargaining power, particularly from the 1970s, as employers increasingly attempted to break union organizing efforts and were issued only weak penalties for violating labor laws.

The report cites the recent resurgence of the US labor movement, and strong public support for labor unions, as a call to action to improve wages and working conditions and support worker organizing.

“As chair of the education and labor committee, I am committed to addressing the decades of anti-worker attacks that have eroded workers’ collective bargaining rights,” said education and labor committee chair congressman Bobby Scott.

“With the release of this report, I once again call on the Senate to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which would take historic steps to strengthen workers’ right to organize, rebuild our middle class, and improve the lives of workers and their families.”


Michael Sainato

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
‘Unions benefit all of us’: new Biden plan encourages federal workers to unionize
Taskforce lays out recommendations ‘to promote my administration’s policy of support for worker power, worker organizing and collective bargaining’

Steven Greenhouse

07, Feb, 2022 @12:29 PM

Article image
Union chief vows to pressure Amazon after historic New York vote
Teamsters’ Sean O’Brien says it’s vital to organize Amazon, asserting that the e-commerce company has ‘total disrespect’ for its workers

Steven Greenhouse

02, Apr, 2022 @9:00 AM

Article image
‘We build those cars’: US workers on Ford picket line demand a fair share
Horns blare in support of strikers outside the carmakers’ plant in Wayne, Michigan, as union members attack ‘corporate greed’

Tom Perkins in Wayne, Michigan

16, Sep, 2023 @10:00 AM

Article image
US fast food workers hold Black History Month strikes to demand $15 an hour
Workers call for McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s to increase pay as Congress prepares to debate federal minimum wage

Dominic Rushe

12, Feb, 2021 @1:00 PM

Article image
Biden says record profits warrant record contracts as historic auto worker strike starts
United Auto Workers union unable to agree deal with Ford, GM and Stellantis, who have seen profits and executive pay soar

Michael Sainato and Maya Yang

15, Sep, 2023 @6:39 PM

Article image
West Virginia teachers' triumph offers fresh hope for US workers' rights
Teachers celebrated their 5% pay rise after concluding their nine-day strike – and said their success gave them a new sense of political power

Mike Elk in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

07, Mar, 2018 @2:54 PM

Article image
US railroad workers prepare for strike as rail companies see record profits
As rail companies see record profits and Biden’s recommendations fall flat, unions call for improved rules – or else

Michael Sainato

14, Sep, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
Biden asks US Congress to block railroad strike that could ‘devastate economy’
With 9 December deadline fast approaching, business groups also push US government to intervene in labor dispute before holidays

Dominic Rushe and agencies

29, Nov, 2022 @1:24 AM

Article image
What can Biden do to reverse Trump's assault on labor rights?
With Covid-19 still raging across the US, job safety experts say the president-elect must issue nationwide regulations directing businesses to protect their workers

Steven Greenhouse

09, Jan, 2021 @10:00 AM

Article image
US labor leaders say underfunding at federal agency has ‘reached crisis stage’
Union officials fear that the overstretched NLRB won’t be able to handle the surge in union activity, giving corporations the upper hand

Steven Greenhouse

17, Aug, 2022 @11:00 AM