New EPI Report: Yes, Unions HELP Working People (2)

By Evan Henerson

To some extent, we knew what the conclusion would be before the researchers from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) arrived at it.

It’s all there in the title of the EPI’s new report: “How Today’s Unions Help Working People.” That’s “help” not “harm” or “cheat” or “disenfranchise.”

The report is 27 pages with an additional 11 pages of notes. It’s important and enlightening reading, certainly, but let’s cut to the chase as summed up by the accompanying press release:

“Collective bargaining plays an essential role in today’s labor market, by raising working people’s wages and supporting a fair and prosperous economy as well as a vibrant democracy…Workers’ freedom to join together and bargain with their employer is under attack.”

And here’s the EPI’s president Lawrence Mishel on the findings:

“Unions raise workers’ wages and strengthen their rights at work, but they also give working people a voice in our democracy. We will never again see consistent robust middle-class wage growth or a healthy democracy without first rebuilding collective bargaining.”

More than 1 in nine workers are represented by a union. The rise of productivity has led to the flattening out of wages for many working people while the wages of top-earning employees has increased dramatically.

The EPI data links income inequality to the decline in union membership. On average, a worker represented by a union will earn more than 13 percent of what a non unionized worker with the same job, education and professional experience will earn.

More from the news release summary:

“Unions help close racial wage gaps, by creating pay transparency, correcting salary discrepancies, establishing clearer terms for raises and promotions, disproportionately boosting the wages of lower-wage workers, and helping workers who have been discriminated against achieve equity. Hourly wages for women represented by unions are 9.2 percent higher on average than for comparable nonunionized women, and black and Hispanic workers get a disproportionate boost from unionization compared with their white counterparts.”

Read the full report here.


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