The ‘why’ behind soaring positive union ratings

The question has been raised as to WHY the recent historic positive ratings of the public’s support of Labor unions – more than 70 percent – is so strong?

A new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) provides startling insights. Pointing out that non-union workers are forced to take their jobs – accept their employer’s terms as is or leave them – the report makes the counterpoint: Unions enable workers to have a voice in those terms and set them through collective bargaining.

Here’s highlights of the public’s reasoning:

PAY AND BENEFITS
Pay – workers covered by a union contract earn on average 10.2 percent more as non-union workers in the same industry and occupation with similar education and experience.

Health Insurance – More than nine in 10 workers covered by a union contract (95 percent) have employer-sponsored health benefits compared with just 69 percent of non-union workers.

Paid Vacations – 90 percent of union workers received paid holidays off compared to 78 percent of non-union workers.

Paid Sick Leave – Nine in 10 union workers (87 percent) have access to paid sick days compared with 76 percent of non-union workers.

EQUITY AND EQUALITY
Workers of Color – Unionized Black workers are paid 13.1 percent more than their non-unionized peers. Hispanic workers represented by unions are paid 18.8 percent more than their non-unionized peers.

Women – Unions help raise women’s pay. Hourly wages for women represented by a union are 4.7 percent higher on average than for non-unionized women with comparable characteristics.

DEMOCRACY
Significantly fewer restrictive voting laws have been passed in the 17 highest-union-density states than in the middle 17 states (including D.C.) and the 17 lowest-union-density states.

Over 70 percent of low-union-density states passed at least one voter suppression law between 2011 and 2019.

AS TO THE ‘WHY?’
The EPI report concludes:

Willingness to Strike – “We were already seeing signs of workers being willing to strike to demand better wages and working conditions. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed an upsurge in major strike activity in 2018 and 2019, marking a 35-year high.”

Fed Up – “We are experiencing a labor enlightenment of sorts in this country, one in which workers are fed up with an economy and workplace that does not work for them. With approval for unions at the highest since 1965, there is a growing realization that unions can potentially make both work better for all.”

BENEFIT ALL WORKERS
“Unions don’t just help union workers – they help all of us,” the report states clearly. “When union density is high, non-union workers benefit, because unions effectively set broader standards – including higher wages.”

Proof positive

On average, the 17 U.S. states with the highest union densities:

• Have state minimum wages that are on average 19 percent higher than the national average and 40percent higher than those in low-union-density states.

• Have median annual incomes of $6,000 higher than the national average.

• Have higher-than-average unemployment insurance recipiency rates (that is, a higher share of those who are unemployed actually receive unemployment insurance).

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