Unions Held Their Own in 2017

Source: Doug Henwood, Jacobin, January 20, 2018

Unions had a pretty good year in 2017: they didn’t lose any ground.

According to the latest edition of the Bureau of Labor Statistics annual survey, released this morning, 10.7 percent of employed wage and salary workers were members of unions, unchanged from last year. There was a mild uptick in the share of private-sector workers represented by unions (aka union density), from 6.4 percent to 6.5 percent. Density was unchanged at 34.4 percent for public-sector workers — mildly surprising, given the war on labor being conducted by Republican governors and legislatures across the country…..

And, as the graph below shows, unions bring higher wages — especially for workers who are neither white nor male.

the union difference

For example, black men who are not in unions earn 71 percent as much as all white men (union and nonunion); with a union, that rises to 89 percent as much. For black women, the numbers are 65 percent for nonunion and 81 percent for union. For what the BLS calls Hispanic or Latino workers the union boost is even sharper: from 69 percent of white men for nonunion men to 98 percent for unionized ones, and from 60 percent for nonunion women to 94 percent for union.

Unions also narrow gender gaps. Nonunion women of all races/ethnicities earn 82 percent as much as men; that rises to 88 percent for unionized women. Unions add 21 percent to the average weekly wage for men, and 30 percent for women. In other words, unions reduce inequality along all the familiar demographic axes — and make it harder to pit workers against each other…..