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Happiness Is … Joining a Union!

by Clyde Weiss  |  January 14, 2015

Union members are happier with their lives than nonunion workers. Makes sense, right? Now comes a study that proves it.

The study, by two university researchers, concludes that “union members are more satisfied with their lives than those who are not members and that the substantive effect of union membership on life satisfaction is large and rivals other common predictors of quality of life.”

Patrick Flavin, an assistant professor at Baylor University, and Gregory Shufeldt, an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, used U.S. data relating to income, education, gender, age, marital status, self-reported health, employment status and church attendance. The responses cover five different years between the early 1980s and mid-2000s.

The study’s conclusions mirror those of Benjamin Radcliff, a University of Notre Dame political scientist who also says unions members around the world are happier, based on his study of unions in 14 nations.

“People who have union jobs like their jobs better,” Radliff said. “And that puts pressure on other employers to extend the same benefits and wages to compete with the union shops.”

In the United States, Flavin and Shufeldt say, “union membership boosts life satisfaction across demographic groups regardless if someone is rich or poor, male or female, young or old, or has a high or low level of education. These results suggest that organized labor in the United States can have significant implications for the quality of life that citizens experience.”

In an email interview with John Guida of Op-Talk, in The New York Times, Flavin and Shufeldt said that “union membership still has benefits, and that this is true for all union members. Simply put, if one goal of labor unions is to boost the quality of life for their members, our study provides empirical evidence that they are succeeding.”

Learn more about why unions matter here, and read more about the Flavin and Shufeldt study in this op-ed in The New York Times.

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