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Unions Protect Workers and Working Families

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Unions help all workers, not just their members, get higher wages.

  • Workers in unions earn 13 percent more than similar workers without unions; and workers in unions are more likely to have employer- provided health and retirement plans.1

  • By promoting equal pay for equal work, unions reduce inequalities and help close the wage gaps faced by women and people of color.2

  • Stronger unions set wage standards that help all workers. A non-unionized worker whose industry is 25 percent unionized is paid 5 percent more than similar workers in less- unionized industries. As unions weaken, that power weakens.3

  • Children in communities where more people belong to unions can expect to have higher earnings and more social mobility.4

Unions make workplaces safer for all workers.

  • Unions create safe spaces for their members to raise concerns regarding safety without fear of retaliation from the boss.5 This has led to safer workplaces, better reporting and the development of rules that help all workers— union and non-union alike.6

  • When teachers bargain to make their classrooms safer, and when nurses bargain to ensure that they have supports to properly care for patients, they are making their communities safer.7

  • States with right-to-work laws have a 43.8 percent higher rate of workplace fatalities.8

Unions bring the voice of working people into politics.

  • The Center for Responsive Politics reports that business spent $15 on politics for every dollar spent by unions. Attacking unions will just tip the scale further in the direction of business and corporate interest groups.9
  • A Princeton University study found that, of any group active in politics, unions were most likely to represent the views of the majority of Americans.10
  • When unions are stronger, it’s more likely that teachers, construction workers, firefighters and other workers will actually hold public office.11

Unions help the pursuit of happiness.

  • Regardless of age, socioeconomic status or race, being a member of a union increases one’s job satisfaction and overall well-being. 12
  • A Duke University study on how healthy people felt found that being in a union offset the effect of five years of aging. 13
  • Unions have a positive effect on a worker’s physical and mental health, which correlates directly with overall satisfaction.14
  • Through benefits, job security and a sense of community, unions have a direct impact at the individual level—decreasing stress and increasing health.15 


1.. Mishel, Lawrence. “Unions, inequality and faltering middle class wages.” Economic Policy Institute. Aug. 29, 2012. middle-class/

2. Ibid.

3. Mishel, Lawrence and Walters, Matthew. ”How unions help all workers.” Economic Policy Institute. Aug. 26, 2003.

4. Freeman, Richard, Han, Eunice, Madland, David and Duke, Brendan V. “Bargaining for the American Dream What Unions do for Mobility.” Center for American Progress. September 2015.

5. Weil, David. “Enforcing OSHA: The Role of Unions.” Industrial Relations 30, no. 1 (2008).

6. Morantz, Alison. “Coal Mine Safety: Do Unions Make a Difference?” ILR Review 66, no.1 (2013).

7. Stephens, Philip. “Benefits of Bargaining: How Public Worker Negotiations Improve Ohio Communities.” Policy Matters Ohio. Oct. 15, 2011. benefits-of-bargaining-how-public-worker-negotiations- improve-ohio-communities

8. AFL-CIO, “Death on the Job,” April 2015. content/download/154671/3868441/DOTJ2015Finalnobug.pdf

9. Center for Responsive Politics. “Business-Labor-Ideology Split in PAC & Individual Donations to Candidates, Parties, Super PACS and Outside Spending Groups.” Dec. 14, 2014.

10. Gilens, Martin and Page, Benjamin I. “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average

Citizens.” Perspectives on Politics 12, no. 3 (2014): 564- 581. files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_ politics.doc.pdf

11. Sojourner, Aaron J. “Unions Foster Middle Class Leadership in American Democracy.” Scholars Strategy Network. August 2013. sites/default/files/ssn_key_findings_sojourner_on_unions_and_ political_leadership_0.pdf

12. Guida, John. “Want to Be Happy? Join a Union.” New York Times. Jan. 13, 2015. http://op-talk.blogs.nytimes. com/2015/01/13/want-to-be-happy-join-a-union/?smid=fb- share&_r=0

13. Reynolds, Megan and David Brady. “Bringing You More Than the Weekend: Union Membership and Self-Rated Health in the United States” May 2012. Social Forces.

14. Flavin, Patrick and Shufeldt, Gregory. “Labor Union Membership and Life Satisfaction in the United States.
Oct. 27, 2014. Membership_and_Life_Satisfaction_10.27.14-nlder4.pdf

15. Zimmerman, Marc A., Israel, Barbara A., Schulz,
Amy and Checkoway, Barry. “Further Explorations in Empowerment Theory: An Empirical Analysis of Psychological Empowerment.”
American Journal of Community Psychology, 20, no. 6. 707-727. 

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