By Melissa O'Rourke
For young workers who may not know what the advantages of being in a union are, the question "What's a union gonna do for me?" was answered in a report released last week by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
The report detailed good news and bad news. The bad news is that workers aged 18-29 have the lowest unionization rates of any age group, and they have been hit hardest by the stagnant wage growth over the last three decades. This is despite a substantial increase in the number of young workers with college degrees.
The good news is that young workers who are in a union make an average of 12.4%, or about $1.75 an hour, more than non-union workers. They are also 17% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and 24% more likely to have a pension plan.
According to American Rights at Work, the Employee Free Choice Act would give workers a fair and direct path to form unions through majority sign-up, help employees secure a contract with their employer in a reasonable period of time, and toughen penalties against employers who violate their workers' rights. Senator Barack Obama not only supports the legislation, but is a co-sponsor. Senator McCain opposes it completely.
For young workers in the lowest-wage occupations, the study shows the contrast between union and non-union is even more stark. The median young worker in a low-wage occupation earned $10.62, almost two dollars an hour more than the $8.74 the median non-union young worker earned. These benefits also carried over into their health care coverage, 40% of union workers vs. less than 20% of non-union workers, and 29% had a pension compared to only 11.2% of their non-union counterparts.
In these tough economic times, the union advantage is not only strong, but obvious and necessary. If young workers are to survive, thrive and build a solid future, we must make sure the Employee Free Choice Act is enacted.
The report can be read in its entirety here.