New report highlights 'the union advantage' for women

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The 40-hour workweek, overtime pay, and workplace health and safety—these are all areas where the labor movement has spearheaded improvements so essential to all. Now, the AFT has joined a coalition to bring public understanding to a raft of union-led reforms that are particularly important in the lives of working women, such as paid sick leave and paid family leave policies at the state and local levels.

"This report makes clear what we in the labor movement know in our bones: Being in a union helps women access the American dream and raise their own and their families' standard of living," AFT President Randi Weingarten says.

Another front where labor has led deals with pay transparency, notes "The Union Advantage for Women," a new Status of Women in the States report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research. "Unions can help close wage gaps related to sex and race, in part by minimizing pay secrecy which makes it difficult for women and men to find out whether they are paid fairly," it stresses. "Nonunion workers in the private sector are more than twice as likely as union workers to say that they are discouraged or prohibited from discussing their pay [even though] transparency in criteria and decisions related to compensation, recruitment, and promotions can prevent bias and help women advance in their careers."

Among the highlights of the report:

  • Among full-time workers ages 16 and older, women represented by labor unions earn an average of $212, or 30.9 percent, more per week than women in nonunion jobs.
  • Union women experience a smaller gender wage gap than their counterparts in nonunion workplaces.
  • The union wage advantage extends to women across racial and ethnic groups. In fact, the difference in earnings between those with and without union representation is largest for unionized Hispanic women, who have median weekly earnings that are 42.1 percent higher than those without union representation.

"Research shows that labor unions tend to raise wages and improve benefits for all represented workers, especially those at the middle and bottom of the wage distribution, who are disproportionately women," the report says.

"On Women's Equality Day, our union, which represents two professions that are disproportionately female—preK-12 educators and nurses—recommits to fighting for full equality for all women," Weingarten says. "We'll continue to organize more women (and men) to bring the union advantage to more workers, and we'll continue to work in our communities for fairness and opportunity for all."

Read more online about the union advantage, along with reports on older women, millennials, same-sex households, women of color and immigrant women.

[Mike Rose, AFT press release]