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Press Release: New Studies Show Unions Help Improve Economic Inequality

Malden, MA: Two recently released studies analyzing new data from the Census’ Current Population Survey (CPS) show that unions are the best solution to tackle the problem of income inequality.

Massachusetts AFL-CIO President, Steven A. Tolman said: “Labor Day is a day to recognize and honor the struggles and achievements of America’s working people. We live in a state that is wealthier than almost every nation on earth yet income inequality is rampant in Massachusetts. We have to look to the work of unions and the Labor Movement to help fix this problem. This new research finds that when unions are weak, the highest incomes climb higher but when unions are strong, middle incomes go up. This means that unions are the best defense against soaring income inequality.”

Professors Kerrissey and Juravich and graduate student Pihl at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst have released their annual report: The State of Labor and Employment in Massachusetts. This report finds:

  • The union difference in wages is substantial with a statewide average boost of around $4/hour versus non-union workers.
  • Union membership in Massachusetts is higher than the national average. It is notable that this extends to Latinos, African Americans and workers with a high school degree or less – these groups all enjoy higher than average unionization rates in the Commonwealth compared to national levels.
  • The employment landscape in Massachusetts has changed significantly over the last decade with an increase in the service and business sectors and a decrease in manufacturing and other traditional blue collar jobs.

The Washington DC-based Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released the report: How Today’s Unions Help Working People. EPI researchers detail how collective bargaining plays an essential role in today’s labor market, by raising working people’s wages and supporting a fair and prosperous economy as well as a vibrant democracy. However, it also revealed that workers’ freedom to join together and bargain with their employer is under attack. Findings include:

  • The union wage boost is largest for low-wage workers and thus larger for African American and Latino workers and those with lower levels of education.
  • The top 1%’s wages have increased nearly 200% since the 1970s and the rest of us have seen a less than 10% increase.
  • Despite most workers (48%) wanting a union, most do not have one and this is no accident. EPI reports that aggressive anti-union campaigns are on the rise with three-quarters or more of private employers who are facing unionization hiring union avoidance consultants to halt the unionization efforts.

President Steven A. Tolman continues: “Unions are good for democracy because they give workers a voice on the job and a voice in politics. The Labor Movement has been key to passing some of the most important legislation of the last century from social security to child labor, from antidiscrimination to health and safety, from unemployment insurance to the minimum wage. Unions are essential to leveling the playing field in a nation where it’s ok for CEOs to rake in tens of millions of dollars in bonuses while their workers need to work multiple jobs and rely on public assistance just to make ends meet. Organized labor is often the only equalizing counterforce in an economy stacked against working people.”

Dowload the full press release here: PDF icon ma_afl-cio_labor_day_press_release_2017.pdf