DMI Blog

Amy Traub

State of the Unions

For millions of Americans, union membership is a ticket to the middle class. In the private sector, union members are 31 percent more likely to have health care benefits than non-union workers, while the typical union member pays only half of the insurance premiums shelled out by their non-union counterparts. Union members are also 47 percent more likely to have an employer-sponsored retirement plan and have more opportunities to accrue paid vacation days and holidays than do non-union employees.

On Thursday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that union members in both the public and private sectors take home about 30% more every week than non-union workers. But they also announced something else: the number of union members dropped by 326,000 workers last year, slipping to less than one in eight of U.S. employees.

Why is the number of union workers shrinking if the benefits of unionization are so formidable?

A new study by the Center for Economic Policy Research suggests one powerful reason: about 1 in 5 union organizers or activists can expect to be fired as a result of their attempt to organize. It is illegal to fire workers for trying to organize, but employers spend millions each year on anti-union consultants to find ways to bend the law and get away with breaking it, not only firing some workers but intimidating many more into backing down from their support for unionization. The situation is so severe that even an international human rights organization issued a report decrying what they saw as the routine violation of basic rights.

Enabling more Americans make a choice about union membership in an atmosphere free of this kind of employer intimidation and coercion is crucial to the progressive agenda. This week's disappointing news of union decline vividly illustrates the need for legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act which would do just that.

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Posted at 7:18 AM, Jan 27, 2007 in Labor
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