Union workers earn $11,000 a year more, study finds
Union workers in 2011 earned on average nearly $11,000 a year more than their non-union counterparts, according to newly released data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Overall, union workers were paid 29 percent more than their non-union counterparts last year, according to the report, which was released Jan. 27.
“We often say it pays to be union, and this report shows that it’s literally true,” said Machinists Union District Lodge 751 President Tom Wroblewski. “That’s the union advantage.”
According to the new data, union workers had average take-home pay of $938 a week in 2011, which equals $48,776 a year. That figure was up 2.3 percent from 2010.
On the other hand, non-union workers were paid on average only $729 a week, or $37,908 a year, which was a scant 1.7 percent increase compared to 2010.
The difference — $10,868 – is great enough to make a real difference in the lives of working Americans, said Wroblewski.
“For most families, $11,000 a year means it’s easier to buy a car or a home, save for a child’s education or take a family vacation,” he said. “These are the basic components of an American middle-class lifestyle, and each one is easier to achieve if you’ve got a union contract.”
For manufacturing workers who produce durable goods – like airplanes or airplane parts — average pay for union workers is 10 percent greater than pay for non-union workers doing similar jobs, the report says. But for workers in maintenance and repair occupations – like aircraft, truck or bus mechanics – pay for union workers is a whopping 35 percent greater.
Washington state has the nation’s fourth-highest union density rate, with 19 percent of all workers belonging to a union last year, the federal report said.
That helps Washington’s overall economy, Wroblewski said.
“Good union paychecks support local economies, because our members have more money to spend with local businesses,” he said. “That’s one reason why we talk about how District 751 helps build better communities.”
A separate federal report last fall also showed the union members typically have far better benefit packages to go with their superior pay.
That study found that as of May 2011, 93 percent of union workers had employer-provided health care benefits, 93 percent had retirement benefits and 85 percent had life insurance benefits.
On the other hand, only 69 percent of non-union workers had health care benefits through their employer, only 64 percent had some kind of retirement plan, and only 57 percent had life insurance.
- 84 percent of union members receive paid sick leave from their employers, compared to 64 percent of non-union workers; and
- 59 percent of union members receive paid personal leave days, compared to 38 percent of non-union workers.
“Having good benefits means you aren’t paying huge sums out of pocket for things like routine medical expenses,” said Wroblewski. “Good retirement benefits mean you’ll be able to live comfortably after you decide to quit working. These things are important to our members, and they’re priorities for us when we negotiate contracts.”
Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at the Boeing Co., District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents more than 31,000 working men and women at 45 employers across Washington, Oregon and California. In December, District 751 members used collective bargaining to reach an agreement that ensures Boeing’s new 737 MAX will be built in Puget Sound.
To contact a District 751 officer for information on how a union contract could help you, click here.