Labor unions improve wages and working conditions for all workers, whether they are union members or not. Unions help reduce wage gaps for women workers and workers of color. Union members have better job safety protections and better paid leave than non-union workers, and are more secure exercising their rights in the workplace.
Watch Department of Labor Chief Economist explain how unions benefit all of us:
Workers with union representation enjoy a significant pay premium compared to non-union workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports non-union workers earn just 83 percent of what unionized workers earn ($975/week vs. $1,169/week).
When more workers have unions, wages rise for union and non-union workers. The converse is also true: when union density declines, so do workers' wages. A report by the Economic Policy Institute found the decline in unionization has cost the typical full-time, year-round worker $3,250 in lost earnings per year.
Unions are a unique solution to closing the gender pay gap and ensuring equitable pay for women, because unions collectively bargain wages and pay scales that are transparent to all workers and apply to workers in the same job equally.
Public service workers who are represented by a union enjoy higher pay than their non-union counterparts. This pay advantage is even greater for Black and Hispanic workers.
Union representation offers greater access to, and participation in, employer-sponsored retirement plans. In fact, 93 percent of unionized workers in private industry have access to employer-sponsored retirement plans, compared to only 66 percent of non-union workers. Union workers participate in retirement plans at higher rates than non-union workers: 84 percent of unionized workers in private industry with access to retirement plans participate in those plans while only 49 percent of non-union workers who have access do.
Unionized workers are far more likely to be covered by employer-provided health insurance. More than nine of out 10 unionized workers have access to employer-provided health insurance, compared to 68 percent of non-union workers.
Workers who are represented by a union are far more likely to receive paid leave from their employers when they are sick or take vacation, an advantage especially important to working women who tend to be the family caregiver.
Work schedules are often a topic for collective bargaining, and – on average -- workers with union representation get significantly more advance notice of their work schedules than non-union workers. Scheduling predictability allows workers to enjoy better work/life balance.
Workers with a union have greater protection against retaliation when they report workplace safety and health concerns and when requesting a government inspection. As a result, enforcement of safety and health laws is stronger at unionized workplaces.
A recent study of NLRB and OSHA data shows that union certification has positive effects on the rate of OSHA inspections, the share of inspections carried out in the presence of a union representative, violations cited and penalties assessed.
With the wage and benefit premium and economic security that union representation provides, workers represented by unions have more financial stability and upward mobility, and a lower risk of poverty than non-union workers.
- Belonging to a union or living in an area with strong unions helps lower the likelihood of poverty. (theconversation.com); Labor Unions and American Poverty
- Unions contribute to upward mobility for workers and lessen the extent of downward mobility
- Unions can rebuild the middle class and narrow the racial wealth gap
- Unions help close the racial wealth gap
U.S. Department of Labor links:
- Learn how unions help close the gender pay gap for women: Women's History Month and the Labor Movement's Role in Narrowing the Gender Pay Gap
- Unions in the workplace can make a positive difference when it comes to workplace safety. Learn more about the connection between unions and worker safety
- In recent years, union-sponsored apprenticeship programs have helped advance workers from historically underserved communities into higher-paid segments of the workforce, while helping to lift all apprenticeship graduates into sound middle-class jobs.
- The Women's Bureau uses data to explain how women workers, particularly women of color, experience multiple types of inequality in the labor force, including gender and racial wage gaps, occupational segregation, and carrying a disproportionate burden of caregiving.
- Unionized women make on average 23% more than women without a union and are also far more likely to have paid leave and stronger protections against workplace discrimination and sexual harassment. Read more from the DOL blog Want Equal Pay? Get a Union.
- Beyond the Bargaining Table: How Unions Help More Than Just Their Members
- Strong unions can counterbalance employers' wage-setting power and benefit both union and nonunion members. Learn more in this factsheet from the Center for Equitable Growth: How strong unions can restore workers' bargaining power.
- While union membership boosts wages for all workers, the National Women's Law Center explains why women see especially large advantages from being in a union.
- Unions help ensure that government is responsive to the needs of working people—Learn more in The Center for American Progress Action Fund report: Unions Help the Middle Class, No Matter the Measure
- Public sector jobs are a source of union jobs and economic mobility for Black workers and their families —The Center for Economic Policy Research explains that public sector unions mean middle-class jobs for Black workers.
- Unionized workers are significantly more likely to have access to paid sick leave than those who aren't in a union, and they can bargain for maternity leave and other family supports.
- According to the Hamilton Project, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, the decline in unionization has limited essential workers' ability to ensure safety in their workplaces.
- Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, workers have used collective action to protect each other. The Economic Policy Institute explains why unions are important to workers for protecting their health and safety, especially during a pandemic.
- Unionization is associated with a sizable decline in both traumatic injuries and fatalities for coal miners: Here's how unions make a difference for coal miners' safety.
- The Center for Equitable Growth explores unions and the enforcement of labor rights.
- Together, pro-labor policies and economic policies that support workers can increase economic prosperity and allow workers to participate in the economy on fair and equal terms. Learn more from the Roosevelt Institute about the importance of collective bargaining, among other rights, for worker prosperity
- According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, young workers represented by unions earn higher wages and are more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and retirement benefits.
- Workers who are union members earn on average $1.3 million more over the course of their careers.
- Read about the wage premium and other advantages of being in a union for working women in this report from the National Partnership for Women and Families
- New report on the success of efforts to build diversity in the construction industry.
Any links to non-federal websites on this page provide additional information that is consistent with the intended purpose of this federal site, but linking to such sites does not constitute an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Labor of the information or organization providing such information. For more information, please visit https://www.dol.gov/general/disclaim.