Monday, September 23, 2013

Unions help improve salaries for all, group finds

We’ve written many times in this space about how union jobs provide a better standard of living for workers. And a new analysis of U.S. Census Bureau stats released last week backs that up. Workers in states with higher union memberships are earning more than those in the least unionized states.

The Center for American Progress’ Action Fund (CAPAF) looked at the income of the middle 60 percent of households in 2012. Middle-class families in U.S. states with the lowest unionization rates -- North Carolina, Arkansas, South Carolina, Mississippi and Georgia -- all earned below average income, while those in four of the five most unionized states -- Alaska, Hawaii, Washington and Rhode Island -- earned above average incomes.
But CAPAF also delved deeper to uncover wider income disparities:
Further illustrating this divide is the gap between the average percent of total state income going to the middle class in the top 10 and bottom 10 most-unionized states. In the top 10 most-unionized states, households in the middle class received 47.4 percent of total state income on average; in the bottom 10 states, households in the middle class received only 46.8 percent. While a difference of 0.6 percentage points may not initially appear large, in 2012, 0.6 percent of Pennsylvania’s aggregate income, for example, would have equaled over $2 billion, or almost $700 per middle-class household.
Even for those not part of a union, the labor movement’s added clout in those states with the highest union membership meant there was increased advocacy on behalf of workers’ interests both in the workplace as well as on the political agenda. CAPAF said unions “have an effect on the everyday lives of middle-class families.”