Unions Close Wage Gaps – but Too Few Workers Are Unionized

by , | Jan 19, 2023 | Fair Pay

Today the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual data on union members in the United States, showing small declines in the rate of union membership over the last year. Our analysis shows that while unions raise wages – especially for women – far too few workers were able to access their benefits in 2022. We find that:

  • Union members and those represented by unions have higher wages compared to their non-union counterparts. Women receive a bigger bump than men, and the “union bump” is especially large for Latinas. Among full-time Latina workers, union members typically make $1,008 each week, compared to just $740 each week among non-union workers, a bump of 36 percent.
  • These higher wages mean union workers have smaller wage gaps than non-union workers. For example, among full-time workers, women who are not in unions are typically paid just 82 cents for every dollar paid to man – while among union members, women are paid 90 cents to a man’s dollar.
  • One bright spot this year: While young workers have lower rates of union membership than workers overall, the share of young women (age 16-24) in unions increased to 3.5 percent from 3.2 percent in 2021. Young men ticked up by a little less (5.3 percent from 5.2 percent).

While today’s data focus on wages, unions also provide other essential benefits. Unions play a critical role in workplace safety, while union membership has even been linked with reduced racial resentment among white workers. And research from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reveals that women union members are more likely to have paid leave, pensions, and health coverage. This is why it’s critical that women increase their share of industries like construction, where union membership is relatively high, and that women-dominated occupations like personal care and service jobs increase rates of unionization.

Given how important unions are for workers, it’s no wonder that Americans’ approval of unions is at its highest rate in nearly 60 years. Yet anti-labor judges and employer crackdowns on collective bargaining make it challenging for workers to unionize. Nevertheless, worker efforts have resulted in some recent victories. Investing in unions and the National Labor Relations Board will create more opportunities in years to come.

Read our full analysis of today’s union data on Twitter: