Working Women and the Union Advantage

We hate to keep sounding like a broken record, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ yearly data on union density around the country and unionists’ pay, too, carry the same paycheck message to working women.

If you want better pay, and want to get closer to equal pay with working men, join the union. Or form one.

Forget benefits, which are also better. Put aside paid family leave, seniority rights, due process on the job, health insurance and even pensions. All of those improve when you go union. But just look at the difference in terms of straight, cold, hard cash.

Union women earn more than almost anybody else. The sole exceptions: Union men, and—the benchmark by which other groups are measured—adult white men.

Median weekly pay for all men, 16 and older, last year was $1,097. The median for all women was $912. The median is the point where half the group is above and half below. It also shows the yawning pay chasm between working men and women: 17%.

Median weekly pay for those benchmark adult white men last year was $1,125. For adult white women: $925. That’s still an 18% gap.

Median weekly pay for white union men last year was $1,257. That includes adults, teens and young workers up to age 24, too. BLS didn’t split the union group up by age. But you don’t need the split to see the story here. Pay gap? What pay gap? Advantage, union.

Now here’s the kicker: Median weekly pay for white union women was $1,121. Remember that benchmark of all white men and the pay gap working women suffer from? If  you’re a working white union woman, your pay gap with that group is four bucks. A Starbucks coffee costs more. There’s a pay gap for union women: Between them and union men: 11%.

Notice something else? Not only do working white union women earn almost as much as the benchmark, all white working men, but their pay gap with union men is smaller.

It’s called the benefits of a union contract. Remember, a contract doesn’t—or isn’t supposed to—differentiate by sex. Bosses do. Black ink on white paper doesn’t.

We’re not going to run the rest of the numbers. You’ll get MEGO, the acronym for “My Eyes Glaze Over.” But unionists earn more and pay gaps are smaller, though the levels are lower, for workers of color. You can find them all on page 6 of the BLS union density release.

But In every case, union men and union women finish far ahead of their nonunion brothers and sisters and closer to pay equity with the benchmark privileged group, adult white men. Dead last, as you might surmise, are nonunion Latinas. Their median pay last year was $699. Their unionized Latina sisters earned $250 a week more. Enough said.

So the message is clear to us, and it should be to every working woman be she Black, White, Brown, Indigenous or Asian American: If you want more money in your pocket—not to mention fewer worries about your job security or feeding yourself and your loved ones—unionize.     

(PAI News Service)