Guest opinion: Unions are key to equal pay



While in the waiting room of an area business I came across a copy of Cosmopolitan that examined the issue of Equal Pay for women; “12 ways to fight for equal pay” contained in-depth descriptions of a variety of methods to achieve a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

Some were direct actions such as “talk to your boss.”  Some were indirect like “push for better fair pay laws.” Some were inexpensive such as “document everything.” Several were expensive – “file a lawsuit.”  Each of these 12 methods would be helpful in the correct circumstance.


It was clear that the article missed a proven method for achieving equal pay.

A method that doesn’t require expensive lawsuits or legislative action.

A method that has helped women be compensated fairly for over 80 years.

A method that helped create the American middle class.

A method that would eventually have ensured even “Rosie the Riveter” was paid fairly for her work. The inspiration for “Rosie the Riveter” was Norma Parker Fraley.  Norma passed away late last month at the ripe old age of 96.

While Norma was only paid 60 percent of a man’s wage for her work during World War II, the Labor Movement had already begun to remedy that situation.


Today, the gender wage gap in unionized workplaces is much smaller than in nonunion environments.

“Unions Help Narrow the Gender Wage Gap,” a study by the Economic Policy Institute concludes:

“One promising way to address both gender-specific disparities and the broken link between all typical workers’ pay and economy-wide productivity growth is through the resuscitation of collective bargaining.

“Unions have been proven to provide women with higher wages and better benefits. …working women in unions are paid 94 cents, on average, for every dollar paid to unionized working men, compared with 78 cents on the dollar for non-union women as a share of non-union men’s dollar.”


The study also points out:

• Hourly wages for women represented by unions are 23 percent higher than for non-unionized women.

• Unions provide a boost to women regardless of their race or ethnicity.

• The gender wage gap is significantly smaller among both white and black unionized workers than their non-union counterparts.

• Unionized workers are also more likely to have access to various kinds of paid leave, from paid sick days, vacations, and holidays to paid family and medical leave, enabling them to balance work and family obligations.

I am hopeful the next time Cosmopolitan looks at this issue they present unionization as one of the most effective methods for women to achieve equal pay.

Until then, supporting unionization and collective bargaining are proven ways to narrow the gender wage gap.  One way to show support for equal pay in Missouri is to vote NO on Proposition A, the phony “right-to-work” in the upcoming election.

(Darin Gilley is financial secretary of UAW Local 2250 in Wentzville.)


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