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Studies find unions close gender and racial pay gaps

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The fact that 68% of Americans approve of labor unions may come as no surprise to those who belong to one. Gallup’s recent poll results, revealing that unions now enjoy their highest level of public support since 1965, mirrored what those who experience the union difference already know: being a union member means higher wages, better benefits, a secure retirement, a voice on the job and much, much more.

Now, two new studies offer more evidence of the ways in which unions help workers.

The first study, released in July by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), finds that women working for unions not only earn more than their nonunion counterparts but the wage gap between union women and men is smaller than for nonunion workers.

According to the study: “Unionized women who work full time typically make $1,067 per week—24% more ($205 more) than women workers who are not in a union, who typically make $862 per week. In contrast, unionized men who work full time typically make $1,216 per week—16% more ($165 more) than men workers who are not in a union, who typically make $1,051 per week.”

Not only do women workers earn more by belonging to a union, but the wage gap between male workers shrinks in a union setting.

The benefit of being a union member is even more pronounced for Latina workers, who earn 40% more than their nonunion counterparts. For Black women, belonging to a union means they earn 24% more than their nonunion peers.

The study also finds that unions improve safety on the job, provide for better health benefits and paid sick time and benefit communities at large.

The second study, released last week by the Center for American Progress, finds that unions increase wealth for everyone, as well as close racial wealth gaps.

Some of the study’s findings are striking. Not only do union households have “more than twice the wealth of the median nonunion household,” but those figures are even greater for Black and Latino workers.

“Black households with a union member have median wealth that is more than three times the median wealth of nonunion Black households,” the study finds. Additionally, “Hispanic households with a union member have median wealth that is more than five times the median wealth of nonunion Hispanic households.”

The study’s authors note that household wealth is not just a reflection of the wages workers earn. Rather, “unions provide access to more and better benefits. Union members are more likely to have 401(k) benefits plans than nonunion members, and they are twice as likely to have a [defined benefit] pension.”

The public’s rising approval of unions is well-founded—life is better in a union.

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