bulldozer union work

Better Wages
Union Workers Earn More

Through collective bargaining, unions have helped raise the standard of living for millions of American workers. There is a distinct economic advantage in belonging to a union and working under a union contract – and particularly under an IUOE-negotiated collective bargaining agreement.

Union workers earn 26 percent more than nonunion workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their median weekly earnings for full-time wage and salary work were $740 in 2002, compared with $587 for their nonunion counterparts.

The union wage benefit is even greater for minorities and women. Union women earn 31 percent more than nonunion women, African American union members earn 29 percent more than their nonunion counterparts and for Latino workers, the union advantage totals 53 percent.

According to the latest available U. S. Department of Labor statistics (see chart 1), union workers earned significantly more wages than non-union workers did. For instance, the average union worker earned $750 per week, compared to only $617 for non-union workers. That’s a difference of $133 per week. For Latinos, other minorities and women, the wage differences for union members versus non-union workers are even greater.  For the year 2000, the earnings difference between union and non-union workers was 28%, and average of $154.00 extra per week.

 Union workers also can claim similar advantages in virtually every occupational category and/or job classification.

Union and Nonunion Earnings by Occupation

In nearly every occupational category, union members earn more than nonunion workers. By comparing the wages of workers within occupational groups, the union difference is most clear.

Full-Time Wage and Salary Workers’ Median Weekly Earnings

(Chart 2)

% Difference
Exec., administrative, mgr.
Farm, forestry, fish
Handlers, laborers
Machine operators
Precision, craft, repair
Service, protective
Service, other
Transportation, moving

Workers’ Incomes Are Lower in States Where Workers Don’t Have Union Rights

In states that have laws restricting workers’ rights to form strong unions, the average pay for all workers is lower. So-called “right-to-work” laws that limit workers’ rights to collectively bargain contracts (including wages and benefits) are a bad deal for all workers. In 2001, average pay in so-called “right-to-work” states was 15 percent lower than in states where workers have the freedom to form strong unions.

The Age Factor

The economic advantages union members enjoy over their non-union counterparts hold true over the entire age spectrum, from the youngest to the most senior workers.

(Chart 3)

Union Membership: The Age Factor–1999


Median Weekly Earnings F/T Union Members

Median Weekly Earnings F/T Non-Union Difference in Median Weekly Earnings
16 to 24 437 335 102
25 to 34 604 506 98
35 to 44 691 594 97
45 to 54 750 617 133
55 to 64 696 582 114
65 and over 616 381 235

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2000


Pension & Health Care

Better Pension and Healthcare

Union workers are more likely than their nonunion counterparts to receive health care and pension benefits, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 1999, 73 percent of union workers in private industry participated in medical care benefits, compared with only 51 percent of nonunion workers. Union workers also are more likely to have retirement and short-term disability benefits.

79 percent of union workers are covered by pension plans versus 44 percent of nonunion workers. 70 percent of union workers have defined-benefit retirement coverage, compared with 16 percent of nonunion workers. (Defined-benefit plans are federally insured and provide a guaranteed monthly pension amount. They are better for workers than defined-contribution plans, in which the benefit amount depends on how well the underlying investments perform.)

Better Sickness & Accident Benefits

Sickness and accident benefits provide needed income to working families in the event of non-work related sickness and injury. Among union workers, 71% have sickness and accident insurance; in non-union work sites, only 36% receive economic security during times of illness and injury.

A Right to Health & Safety on the Job

Far too many workers are killed, injured, disabled and exposed to risks and diseases on the job. Working under a union contract, workers have built-in mechanisms to monitor and even correct the work environment, and to ensure that health and safety concerns are addressed.

A Voice at Work the Boss Can’t Ignore

Belonging to a union gives workers contractual and other legal rights they do not enjoy without union representation. Being union gives workers a voice on the job, and their collective voices form the union that makes their voices more forceful, more influential with management than any individual voice.

Belonging to a union allows you to establish a written agreement that specifies the terms of your employment. Once you have formed a union, your employer is required by law to bargain with you over your wages, hours and working conditions.

A Right to Vote on Your Contract

As members of the IUOE, workers are guaranteed by the union’s constitution the right to vote on contracts negotiated by the union, unless the workers vote to give the approval authority to a committee.

Advancing Your Career Through Training and Education

Union members are afforded the opportunities to improve and upgrade their skills – and, consequently, their wages and responsibilities — through union-sponsored education and training programs. The IUOE is acknowledged as the leader in providing the most comprehensive, highest quality craftsmen training programs in the construction and maintenance and operations industries.

Job Security

In a time of high unemployment and uncertain economic conditions, the right to retain your job is critical to you and your family. It is important to know that you can’t be fired without just cause or laid off to make room for the owner’s favorite nephew.

Most union contracts establish strict rules about job security and the conditions under which layoffs or reductions in the work force take place. This makes sure that everyone is treated fairly, and that no one is discriminated against for voicing an opinion on the job, or for insisting on adherence to the terms of the contract.

Without the protection of a union contract, you are at the mercy of the employer. You have the ability to change that; you have the power (and the LEGAL right) if you act collectively.