A new report by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC) and the House Committee on Education and Labor highlights union membership as a path to equal pay and proper benefits for workers of color. The report also demonstrates the ways in which unions improve the quality of life for not just union members but for everyone in their communities.
The New Face of Unionization
The report states that in the past, unions have been exclusionary towards non-White workers. This came in the form of explicit racism or through manipulative and unreasonably high barriers to achieve a diabolical goal- that of keeping union halls White. However, Black, Latino, and Chinese workers have always been active in labor organizing for better wages and improved working conditions even when they were barred from unions and left with no labor protections.
Workers of color are now taking advantage of the benefits of union membership. And unions in return are embracing this and actively recruiting members from these communities as well as pushing for more recruitment amongst women.
Benefits for One, Benefits for All
Unions benefit everyone; workers, their families and even workers who aren't members. This is because high rates of unionization set a standard for the entire industry. With more workers as members, the bar is raised and even non-signatory companies must acquiesce and raise their standards to continue bidding projects.
Everyone then enjoys higher wages and a level of benefits that becomes mandatory and standard. This is how unionization uplifts the entire community.
“The positive effects of unions extend beyond just those workplaces that have formally organized. By boosting wages industry-wide, narrowing the gender and racial wage gaps and improving job quality, unions generate benefits that are economy wide." said JEC Chairman Don Beyer.
With the passing of the Infrastructure Act, union jobs are expected to increase exponentially promising a bright future for organized workers and increased standards across the entire industry.
Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert C. Scott added, “Today’s report offers the latest evidence that labor unions are workers’ best tool to access higher wages, better benefits, and safer workplaces. In fact, the benefits of union membership extend even to nonunion members and the children of unionized workers."
A series of high-profile unionization drives such as efforts aimed at Amazon, Starbucks and on behalf of Senate cafeteria workers—have put the national spot-light back on organized labor. 2021 was marked by high profile union successes amounting to new levels of popularity not seen in five decades.
The report reflects on some key statistics compiled from 2021:
In 2021 there were 951 unionization elections held nationwide. 70% of these were successful.
As a whole, unionized workers command 10.2% more than than non-union workers. Because of this, wages and benefits naturally, through spillover, increase across the whole industry.
White workers earn 10.1% more as union members
Asians earn 14.7% more as union members
Black workers garner 17.3% in wage increases as union members
Latinos earn 23% more as union members
Everyone is raised to the same level of pay and benefits on union sites.
Narrowing Racial Gaps
The segment of workers, families and their communities who are benefiting the most from this changing face of the construction industry are those that decades prior, were under served by unions but are now being welcomed.
Asian workers look to make 14.7% more as members of a union, Black workers 17.3%, and Latinos a whopping 23% more.
The findings of the study demonstrate the clear financial benefit of union membership for all- especially workers of color.
Read full report on JECDems