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Fighting For All Workers
Daily Kos
Laura Clawson

September 6, 2010
View the Original Article


The reasons you might want to be in a union are clear:

Better wages: Wages of union members are, on average, 27% higher than those of nonunion workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In 2004, union workers were paid $781 a week, but nonunion workers only got paid $612 a week. While all unions workers are better off than nonunion workers, women and minorities are especially so: 

  •  Women in unions earn an extra $170 a week -- $9,000 more a year.
  • African Americans in unions earn an extra $150 a week -- $8,000 more a year.
  •  Latinos in unions earn an extra $225 a week -- $11,650 more a year. 

Better health care: 81% of union workers have job-related health coverage, while only 50% of non-union workers do. Union families pay 43% less for family coverage than nonunion families -- that's a savings of $1,000 a year.

Better pensions: 72% of union workers have a guaranteed, defined benefit pension, compared to only 15% of nonunion workers.

But what about all those accusations that unions are just out to help their own members, never mind anyone else? Not for nothing do unions refer to themselves as "the folks who brought you the weekend" -- for generations the advances unions fight for have benefited all workers, and it's no less true today:

Raise wages for all workers. Studies show that a large union presence in an industry or region can raise wages even for non-union workers.

Fight for all workers’ health and safety. In 2008 the AFL-CIO and the United Food and Commercial Workers sued to get employers to provide personal protective equipment. Now, workers in hazardous jobs which require safety gear—like hard hats or protective glasses—must be provided this equipment, instead of being asked to buy it themselves.

Advocate for increases in the minimum wage and push for living wage ordinances. Unions have been instrumental in efforts to increase the federal minimum wage, state minimum wages and in the successful living wage movement which has already resulted in over 150 local living wage laws nationwide.

Reduce wage inequality. Unions raise wages the most for low- and middle-wage workers and workers without college degrees.

Invest worker pension funds to rebuild communities In June 2006, the AFL-CIO launched the Gulf Coast Revitalization Program, a $1 billion housing and economic development program to create low- and moderate-income housing, a low-cost mortgage program, health facilities, job training services, and thousands of high-wage union jobs throughout the region. The Gulf Coast program builds on the success of similar AFL-CIO investment strategies to develop affordable housing in Chicago and to help New York City recover from the devastating terrorist attacks of September 11th. Union pension funds invested $750 million in post-9/11 New York.