Union advantage: Higher pay plus better benefits

Union members on average make 27 percent more than non-union workers doing similar work, new data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics shows.

Union Yesgr blue“That doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically get a 27 percent pay increase if you vote in a union at your company,” said Jon Holden, the president of Machinists Union District Lodge 751. “But it does show how over time, union-represented workers are able to negotiate with their employers for better and better rates of pay.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual report on unions showed that union workers nationwide earn an average of $970 a week — roughly $50,400 a year – while non-union workers earned an average of $763 a week, or $39,600 a year.

The difference – nearly $11,000 a year – can make a huge difference for a working family’s quality of life, Holden said.

“Whether we’re talking about buying a home, saving for a child’s education or taking your family on vacation, an extra $11,000 a year can go a long way toward making the American Dream a reality,” he said.

The report also showed that union membership is particularly beneficial for women and minorities:

  • Latino men and women who are union members on average earn 42 percent more than Latino workers in non-union jobs;
  • African-Americans who are union members on average earn 33 percent more than African-Americans working in non-union jobs;
  • Women of all races who work in union jobs earn on average 32 percent more money than women in non-union positions.

“Clearly, there’s a union advantage,” Holden said.

The wage report follows a separate report released last summer that showed union members also have much better retirement and health care benefits at work.

On benefits, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported:

  • 94 percent of union members have company-sponsored retirement benefits, compared to 64 percent of non-union workers; and
  • 94 percent of union members had health care benefits at work, compared to 68 percent of non-union workers.

The quality of the benefits was also superior, the federal data showed. For example, workers with union contracts paid out-of-pocket only 19 percent of the premiums for family health care coverage, while workers at non-union companies paid 34 percent of the premiums’ cost.

“The average family health insurance plan costs well over $15,000 a year in Washington state,” Holden said. “Given that, the difference in out-of-pocket costs between union and non-union workers for family health care coverage would be more than $2,300 a year.

“That’s $2,300 in health care savings added on to the nearly $11,000 in additional wages,” he continued. “That’s a really good return on your investment of union dues dollars.”

The federal report also showed that union workers also are more likely to have benefits like:

  • Life insurance (86 percent, compared to 56 percent of non-union workers);
  • Paid sick days (83 percent, compared to 62 percent of non-union workers); and
  • Paid holidays (81 percent, compared to 74 percent of non-union workers).

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 33,000 working men and women at 51 employers across Washington and California.

Think you would be better off with a union contract? Click here to contact an IAM 751 representative to learn how to join the Machinists Union.

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