Web 190903 union effect

Union member­ship in Washington is growing. The state now ranks 3rd highest in the nation in the percentage of workers in unions. And a new report released on Aug. 29 by the Washington State Labor Educa­tion and Research Center helps explain one of the reasons why that is so: union members here earn signif­i­cantly higher wages and are more likely to get health care and retire­ment benefits than their non-union counterparts. 

The Union Effect: Raising Standards for Workers Across Washington” finds that Washington workers in unions earn, on average, 7.2 percent more than compa­rable non-union workers — or an additional $3,500 per year. They also reduce race and gender gaps in compen­sa­tion, especially for lower wage workers. According to the report, workers of color in Washington who are union members are 21 percent more likely to have health insur­ance coverage and are 45 percent more likely to have pension coverage. Immigrant workers in unions have a 43 percent greater likeli­hood of having health insur­ance and a 77 percent greater likeli­hood of having pension coverage. 

This report’s findings are no surprise to those of us already in unions,” said Larry Brown, Presi­dent of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. When you join together with your co-workers to negotiate from a position of strength, you get better pay and benefits. That’s good for everyone — not just union families — because it boosts the state and local economies, and it raises standards for all workers in Washington.” 

The state’s union member­ship rate increased to 19.8 percent of the workforce in 2018, up from 18.8 percent in 2017, according to the U.S. Depart­ment of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statis­tics. With 65,000 more workers joining the ranks last year, there are now an estimated 649,000 union members in Washington, making it the third most union­ized state in the nation. Only Hawaii and New York have higher percentages.

Meanwhile, Gallup reports that public approval of unions is at a 15-year high:

  • 64% of Ameri­cans approve of labor unions;
  • Since 1970, approval was higher only in 1999 (66%) and 2003 (65%); and
  • Union approval is up 16 points from 2008, with party groups showing similar increases.