Union workers earned 25 percent more in 2016

Union members in 2016 earned 25 percent higher wages than their non-union counterparts, new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows.

The same report also showed that union membership in Washington state grew again in 2016, and is up by 10 percent over the past two years.

“These are two pieces of very good news for our state,” said Jon Holden, the president of Machinists Union District Lodge 751. “We’ve got more people earning more money, which means they are better able to support their families – and the Main Street businesses in their communities.”

uniondifferenceAccording to the most-recent BLS data, median pay for union workers nationwide was $1,004 a week in 2016, which equals a wage of $25.10 an hour, or earnings of $52,200 a year. (Median means that half the workers were paid more, and half less.)

Median pay for non-union workers, by comparison, was $802 a week last year, which equals a wage of $20.05 an hour, or earnings of $41,700 a year.

“Five dollars an hour in additional pay makes a significant difference in your ability to provide for your family,” Holden said. “We often say ‘it pays to be union,’ and this data proves that saying is literally true.”

In addition, the Bureau reported that union membership in Washington state totaled 539,000 people in 2016, an increase of 39,000 from the year before. It is the second year in a row that Washington’s union membership total has increased.

Our state has the fifth-highest percentage of workers belonging to unions, at 17.4 percent. That helps raise the standard of living for everyone, Holden said. “Higher union density  raises pay and benefits for non-union workers, which injects more dollars into our communities.”

The new report on union membership and wages followed a separate report from the Bureau last summer that showed union workers also fare better when it comes to health care and retirement benefits.

That report showed that

  • 94 percent of union workers are offered a pension or retirement savings plan at work, compared to 65 percent of non-union workers;
  • 94 percent of union workers are offered health care benefits at work, compared to 66 percent of non-union workers;
  • 86 percent of union workers have paid sick leave, compared to only 65 percent of non-union workers; and
  • 85 percent of union workers have life insurance benefits, compared to only 54 percent of non-union workers.

The quality of union benefit plans typically are better too. For example, the Bureau reported that companies on average paid 80 percent of the premium cost under union-negotiated family health care plans, while only paying 65 percent of the premium cost for family plans for non-union workers.

The latest data from the insurance industry shows that a typical family health-care plan in Washington costs more than $16,600 a year,” Holden said. “Given that, the difference in what a typical union worker would pay for a family plan versus a non-union worker amounts to nearly $2,500 a year.”

Union Yesgr blueCombine the increased wages with the lower health care benefit costs and “that’s a difference of almost $13,000 a year, which is well worth the investment of several hundred dollars in annual union dues,” Holden said. “That’s $13,000 into your pocket, which can go toward a new home, saving for a child’s education or achieving any other part of the American Dream.”

Originally formed in 1935 by hourly workers at the Boeing Co., District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents nearly 31,000 working men and woman at 53 employers across Washington and California.

Think you’d be better off working under a union contract? Click here to talk to an IAM 751 representative about the benefits of working union and how to join the IAM.

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