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Feel the benefit: union workers receive far better pay and rights, Congress finds

Study shows unionized workers earn 10.2% more than non-union peers, amid wave of organizing at some of largest US employers

Workers represented by labor unions earn 10.2% higher wages than their non-union peers, have better benefits and collectively raise wages industry-wide, according to a report released by the House and Senate committees on Friday and first shared with the Guardian.

Joe Biden has pledged to be the most pro-union president in generations, and the report outlining the economic benefits of union membership was released as his administration pushes for legislative and executive-action efforts to support workers’ rights to organize.

According to the report, by the joint economic committee of Congress and the House education and labor committee, unionized workers are also 18.3% more likely to receive employer-sponsored health insurance, and employers pay 77.4% more per hour worked toward the cost of health insurance for unionized workers compared with non-unionized workers.

Labor unions have also contributed to narrowing racial and gender pay disparities; unionization correlates to pay premiums of 17.3% for Black workers, 23.1% for Latino workers and 14.7% for Asian workers, compared with 10.1% for white workers. Overall, female union workers receive 4.7% higher hourly wages than their non-union peers and in female dominated service industries, union workers are paid 52.1% more than non-union workers.

“Unions are the foundation of America’s middle class,” said congressman Don Beyer, chair of the Joint Economic Committee. “For too long, the wealthy have captured an increasing share of the economic pie. As this report makes clear, unions help address economic inequality and ensure workers actually see the benefits when the economy grows.”

The Biden administration’s drive to increase union membership comes amid a wave of organizing among workers at some of America’s largest employers, including Amazon and Starbucks.

But despite the recent uptick in organizing, union membership has declined markedly in recent decades, from 34.8% of all US wage and salary workers in 1954 to 10.3% in 2021. According to several studies the decline has contributed significantly to increasing wage inequality and stagnation.

Corporate practices and legal changes have also eroded workers’ bargaining power, particularly from the 1970s, as employers increasingly attempted to break union organizing efforts and were issued only weak penalties for violating labor laws.

The report cites the recent resurgence of the US labor movement, and strong public support for labor unions, as a call to action to improve wages and working conditions and support worker organizing.

“As chair of the education and labor committee, I am committed to addressing the decades of anti-worker attacks that have eroded workers’ collective bargaining rights,” said education and labor committee chair congressman Bobby Scott.

“With the release of this report, I once again call on the Senate to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which would take historic steps to strengthen workers’ right to organize, rebuild our middle class, and improve the lives of workers and their families.”

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