Unions Built America
“The labor movement means just this: it is the last noble protest of the American people against the power of incorporated wealth.” – Wendell Phillips
America’s 15.3 million union members have helped build the middle class. Their efforts to improve the lives of working people have secured benefits, such as a 40-hour work week and overtime pay, that we now take for granted. Organized labor has also been instrumental in achieving rights such as an eight-hour workday, child labor laws, health insurance and vacation time.
The Union Advantage
- Union members earn 32 percent more than non-union
- Women union members earn 39 percent more than non-union
- African-American union members earn 45 percent more than non-union
- Latino union members earn 54 percent more than non-union
Since the decline of union membership beginning in 1973, wages have stagnated despite steady increases in worker productivity.
The nation’s union members represent a cross-section of people – women and men of all ages, races and ethnic groups. They work in hospitals and nursing homes, auto assembly plants and on construction sites, trains, buses and airplanes. They are security guards, engineers, office workers, musicians, electricians, postal workers and janitors.
They are the ironworkers who construct bridges and buildings.
Today, unions are withstanding unprecedented attacks on their rights to organize and collectively bargain. Know your rights!
The National Labor Relations Act decrees:
“It is hereby declared to be the policy of the United States to…encourage the practice and procedure of collective bargaining and [to] protect…the exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self-organization and design of representatives of their own choosing for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment or other mutual aid or protection.”
Union membership is important to all working families, helping breadwinners take home decent wages to support their families, work in safe conditions and have a say in their jobs.
Unions continue to fight for working families and workers’ rights, including the fight to continually improve health and safety laws.
Statistics show that union members are more productive than their non-union counterparts. Construction union members in particular have been proven anywhere from 17 percent to 38 percent more productive than non-union crews.
The increased training that unionized tradespeople undergo, along with their commitment to the trade as a career, not just a job, may account for the increased productivity.
Union Productivity by Industry
|Industry||Productivity Effect||Year of Study|
Source: Unions and Economic Competitiveness, 1992
Other reasons for increased productivity include shared decision making, promotions, higher production standards, lower turnover and longer tenure.