Unions foster civic participation in our democracy and help build worker solidarity across racial lines. Strong unions help policymakers focus on the most important issues for working families, like fair pay, paid leave and support for public education. States with higher union density are far more likely to adopt pro-worker policies and, conversely, states with lower union density adopt more restrictive laws like voter suppression laws and invest less in healthcare and education. Today’s unions are becoming more involved in promoting Green Jobs and other green energy initiatives to help address climate change. Learn about the importance of strong unions to our communities and our democracy.

In states with higher union density, unions are more likely to win passage of laws and policies that benefit working people, including higher minimum wages, paid sick leave, and other pro-worker laws. Unions and their members advocate for these pro-worker laws to benefit all workers.

“Unions are not only good for workers, they’re good for communities and for democracy”

States with high union density have progressive policies that benefit all workers

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Average state minimum wage is 40% higher in high-union-density states than in low-union-density states

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In recent years, many states have passed laws that restrict voting rights. These voter-suppression laws are more likely to be passed in states with lower union density.

Voter restriction bills are more likely to pass in low-union-density states than in high-union-density states

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Residents in states with higher union density are more likely to have health insurance through Medicaid expansion. Workers in states with higher union density are more likely to receive unemployment benefits when they are between jobs.

Medicaid expansion by state as of 2019

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Average UI recipiency rate (2019) in high-, medium-, and low-union-density states

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Unions promote better wages and enforcement of labor laws, and they help promote fairness and equity, especially along racial and gender lines.

“Labor Day: How unions promote racial solidarity in the United States” - Equitable Growth

Unions foster multiracial democracy and solidarity

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M-POWER, the Multilateral Partnership for Organizing, Worker Empowerment, and Rights, is a historic global initiative centered on ensuring working families thrive in the global economy and elevating the role of trade unions and organized workers as essential to advancing democracy.

Watch this short video that highlights M-POWER – the Multilateral Partnership for Organizing, Worker Empowerment, and Rights Initiative – a historic global initiative centered on ensuring working families thrive in the global economy and elevating the role of trade unions and organized workers as essential to advancing democracy.

Unions support our democracy by encouraging civic engagement. Research shows union members are more engaged on the issues and vote in greater numbers than people not in unions.

Average voter turnout in top and bottom 10 states by average union density, 1989-2020

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Unions encourage more civic interactions between coworkers

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Unions are increasingly engaged in addressing climate change and reducing the harmful impact of climate change in the community. Through policy advocacy, labor-management initiatives, and other measures, unions are working to reduce harmful emissions and promote good, clean energy jobs.

Among the examples of efforts to address climate change are the following: North America’s Building Trades Unions signed a landmark agreement with Orsted to build up to 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy on the east coast. In addition to producing significant amounts of clean energy, the partnership will create up to 83,000 jobs.

The U.S. Green Building Council-Los Angeles, the Building Owners and Managers Association of Greater Los Angeles and the Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West established the Green Janitor Education Program in 2014. The program helps janitors become accredited in green building cleaning practices to help meet the latest energy, water, and environmental sustainability standards.

The SEIU Local 32BJ Thomas Shortman Training Fund helped create the Green Supers Program in 2010, a labor management program to train 2,200 building superintendents to increase their knowledge and efforts to improve energy efficiency.

The Utility Pre-Craft Trainee Program is a pre-apprenticeship program developed by IBEW Local 18 in partnership with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The program is also a cornerstone of the Repower LA Coalition that aims to recruit women and communities of color. The IBEW and the National Electrical Contractors Association have pledged to invest $140 million to train workers for jobs in renewable energy.

The BlueGreen Alliance's Solidarity for Climate Action plan provides a blueprint for addressing climate change while creating good, good, union jobs. 

The Climate Jobs National Resource Center and the Cornell ILR Climate Jobs Institute work together with unions and communities on research and other initiatives to address climate change and promote equity in the transition to a clean energy economy.

A report by the NRDC examines how unions and union jobs benefit the clean energy economy.

Ingeteam and IBEW Local 2150 are working together in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to advance the clean energy transition.

Read how union apprenticeships train workers for good jobs in the clean energy sector.

Watch this Department of Energy video to hear how union workers found registered apprenticeships that helped launch their careers in the clean energy sector.

A Center for American Progress report explains why unions will be a critical part of building an economy fueled by clean energy.  

Many union members are veterans, and unions sponsor a number of programs to assist returning service members in finding jobs. For example, the Union Veterans Council advocates for veterans, and North America’s Building Trades Unions’ Helmets To Hardhats program connects returning service members to training and employment opportunities in the construction trades.

Through joint labor-management training programs, including Registered Apprenticeship programs, unions help create and support job training and employment opportunities for workers in the building trades, health care, and other industries. Apprenticeships and the Labor Movement

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