Report: Union workers earn 21 percent better pay
SEATTLE — Union workers on average earn $200 a week more than their non-union counterparts, a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows.
The extra income – which equals $10,400 a year more – can make a real difference in the lives of working Americans, said Jesse Cote, who leads the unionizing department at Machinists Union District Lodge 751.
“The numbers don’t lie – individual working people do better for themselves when they work together as part of a union,” he said.
The new BLS data shows that the average union worker earned $950 a week in 2013, or $49,400 a year. That was a 1 percent increase over the year before.
Non-union workers, by comparison, earned only $750 a week, or roughly $39,000 a year – which is 21 percent less than the pay for union members.
“We often say it pays to be union,” Cote said. “These numbers show that it’s literally true.”
Union workers also are far more likely to have employer-provided health care and retirement benefits than their non-union counterparts, a separate report released last year shows.
Union workers also are more likely to have paid sick leave, the data shows.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s annual survey of employee benefits found that:
- 95 percent of union workers have an employer-sponsored retirement plan, compared to 63 percent of non-union workers;
- 95 percent of union workers have employer-paid medical benefits, compared to 68 percent of non-union workers; and
- 86 percent of union workers have life insurance, compared to 56 percent of non-union workers.
When it comes to health insurance, the data suggests that not only are union workers more likely to have coverage, the insurance is likely to be better.
Most American employers pay for the majority of the cost of their workers’ health-insurance premiums. But union workers, on average, pay only 13 percent of the cost of individual health insurance, and 20 percent of the cost of family coverage.
Non-union workers, on the other hand, are forced to pay 21 percent of the cost of individual coverage, and a whopping 35 percent of the cost of family coverage.
One statistic on medical benefits really stands out, Cote said.
“Only 50 percent of non-union workers sign up for health insurance benefits at work,” he pointed out. “We see that often when we talk to workers at non-union companies — their insurance is so bad, or so expensive, that it’s not worth the cost to them.
“That’s sad,” Cote continued. “A health insurance benefit that you can’t afford to use isn’t much of a benefit at all.”
There’s been a national push to provide workers with paid sick leave, especially those working in the food service industry. But already, 84 percent of union workers have paid sick leave, compared to 62 percent of non-union workers.
“Clearly there are benefits to belonging to a union,” Cote said.
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 nearly 33,000 working men and women at 49 employers across Washington, Oregon and California.
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