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What do Unions do?

Unions guarantee rewards for hard work and initiative.

  • Workers with unions earn an average 25 percent more than do workers without a union.
  • Seventy-three percent of union members in the private industry get health benefits on the job, compared with about half of workers without unions.
  • Seventy percent of union members in medium and large private companies are covered by defined-benefit pensions that guarantee a benefit, compared with only 16 percent of workers without a union.

Unions help remedy discrimination in the workplace.

  • Union contracts raise earnings by 30 percent for working women and African Americans and 45 percent for Latinos.
  • Union contracts help make sure that everyone is treated fairly and equally on the job.

Unions raise living standards for the whole community.

  • For decades, union membership paved the way to a strong and growing middle class. As union membership declined, the gap between the wealthy and everyone else grew.
  • Better wages and benefits through unions mean that more families can make it on their own in the community—and the wage and benefit floor is lifted for everyone.
  • Studies show that states where many of the workers have a union are also states with lower poverty rates, better schools and less crime.

Unions make America work better.

  • Unions raise professional standards. Union workers have a say in decisions that affect the quality of the products they make and the services they deliver. Unions train more workers each year than any organization outside the U.S. military.
  • Studies show that by lowering turnover rates and giving workers a voice in how work is done, unions raise productivity by 19 to 24 percent in manufacturing, 17 to 38 percent in construction and up to 16 percent in hospitals.
  • Unions help make sure our nation prioritizes working people's issues—they hold corporations accountable, make workplaces safe, protect Social Security and retirement, fight for quality health care and make sure working people have time to spend with their families. If unions weren't out there fighting for these issues, who would be?

Sources: U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Earnings, January 2002; U.S. Census Bureau; Income of Households by State in 2000; O'Leary, Kathleen and Scott Morgan, State Rankings 2002; Belman, Dale, "Unions, the Quality of Labor Relations, and Firm Performance,” in Unions and Economic Competitiveness. Lawrence Mishel and Paula B. Voos, eds.


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