Pro Labor Unions Strengthen Middle Class Households
A first-of-its-kind Treasury Department report finds that unions help grow our economy and strengthen middle-class households. Union members earn higher wages and are more likely to have access to critical benefits like retirement savings, health insurance, and life insurance.
Yet despite a surge in public support for unions, US law makes it extremely difficult for workers to organize. The PRO Act would change that.
Better wages and benefits
Unions help workers improve their paychecks and benefits by bargaining with employers for higher wages, better health care, and safer workplaces. Many studies find that unionized workers make more money than nonunionized employees and have higher levels of job satisfaction.
Labor unions also help reduce inequality by bringing people together across race, gender and ethnicity to share information and support each other. This helps to create a more equitable economy where the informal worker-employer relationship is strengthened and racial, gender and income wage gaps are reduced.
In the US, current federal law falls short of international standards on the right to organize and imposes burdensome restrictions on workers seeking to form unions and negotiate with their employer. The PRO Act would address these problems by bringing the US into compliance with international norms and strengthening workers’ rights to form unions to fight for better wages and working conditions. It would also prohibit employers from firing or coercing workers to discourage union organizing and prevent them from intimidating their fellow employees.
Better working conditions
Working conditions are an integral part of the social contract and the way they impact worker and enterprise outcomes. Unions play a critical role in supplementing legislated labor rights and protections with the ability to negotiate with employers over working conditions, including pay, overtime, health and safety, job security, and family/medical leave.
Workers are more likely to be able to negotiate a decent raise, affordable health care, and a stable schedule when they are in a union. They’re also more likely to have access to employer-provided retirement and disability benefits.
The PRO Act would give workers the power to organize and strengthen rules regarding “joint employment,” where two companies control a single employee (a growing trend in our fissured economy). It also removes the ban on “sympathy strikes,” or secondary boycotts, where workers strike over conditions at other workplaces to pressure their own company to improve. This is a key reform that is consistent with international standards on freedom of association.
Through collective bargaining, union members are able to secure wins that help their entire community – like safer nurse staffing levels that save lives or smaller classroom sizes that help students. And in collaboration with community partners, unions are also able to advocate for policies that help working families – like affordable healthcare and great public schools.
Increasing research finds that states with higher union densities have better economic outcomes and lower rates of inequality. And a new proposal in Congress, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO), would bring US law in line with international human rights standards and address key policy barriers that prevent workers from joining unions.
Moreover, scholarship shows that strengthening unions has positive direct effects for communities, including increased civic engagement and less racial resentment. At a time when democracy appears to be in decline, it is imperative that we support workers in their efforts to organize and form strong unions.
We are stronger together
With corporate power at an all-time high, workers need to have a way to fight back. That’s why a growing number of Americans are turning to unions.
Union members have a voice in their workplaces, which gives them the power to negotiate things like better wages and benefits and safe and healthy working conditions. And by joining together, unions can create a stronger middle class that makes our country stronger for generations to come.
Since the pandemic, American workers have renewed interest in organizing, with campaigns at Amazon, Costco, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s and more receiving global attention. Amid this excitement, Congress has introduced the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO), which would close gaps in US law and bring it closer to international standards. It would also make it easier for workers to vote in union elections by requiring employers to provide organizers with email addresses and phone numbers so they can reach a broad swath of employees, including those in nontraditional workforces.