When a state has strong unions, standards are improved for all workers.
When workers are able to come together and form a strong voice — when they can unionize and bargain as a whole — the positive effects don’t end with the members who bargained for them. When a state has strong unions, standards are improved for everyone.
This effect is the clearest when comparing states with anti-worker laws to states that support unions. Workers in pro-union states — all workers, not just union members — earn more money than workers in states with anti-worker laws. In 2013, the median household income here in Oregon was $56,307, which is 15% higher than the average household income in states with anti-worker laws ($49,257).
In states with anti-union laws, more people live in poverty. In 2013, pro-union states had a smaller average percentage of their population living in poverty than states with anti-worker laws did.
Not only is unionization improving wages and reducing poverty, but it’s helping eliminate gender pay disparities, too. Gender wage gaps are seen in every state, with women earning less than men on average for the same job. But these disparities are less pronounced in states without anti-worker laws.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2013, median weekly earnings for women in states without anti-worker laws were 82% of the median income for men, compared to only 80% in states with anti-worker laws.
Across occupational groups, wages are higher in states that allow unionization. The disparities are more pronounced in occupations that tend to be more unionized: Among construction occupations, the median hourly wage is 22% higher in states without anti-worker laws.
The differences in wages are even more striking when we look at specific occupations, like teachers or carpenters.
The positive effects of labor unions and collective bargaining are clear: When workers have the ability to stand together, standards are improved for all workers.