Membership Benefits

Wages and salaries

In March 2004, the average union worker in the private sector earned $20.32 per hour while the average non-union worker earned $16.21 per hour. Therefore, the typical union worker enjoys $4.11 per hour more than their non-union counterpart does, which is $8,548 per year for a full-time, full-year worker.

Benefits are the biggest union advantage

Benefits though are where the biggest union advantage lies. The average union worker in the private sector receives $11.61 per hour toward their benefits package while their non-union counterpart receives only $6.06 per hour.

Retirement benefits

After years of service, workers deserve a secure retirement. Unfortunately, only 45 percent of non-union workers receive retirement benefits; defined either benefit, defined contribution or both. Just 15 percent have a defined benefit plan that pays out a set amount every month, regardless of fluctuations in the stock market. Forty percent have riskier defined contribution plans like 401(k)s whose payouts rise and fall with the investments that make up the plan. As employees at Enron and WorldCom have discovered, defined contribution retirement funds may not be there when it's time to retire. In stark contrast, 83 percent of union workers have retirement benefits and nearly 72 percent have the safer, defined benefit plans. Nearly 50 percent of all workers have no medical care through their employer, and far fewer have dental and vision coverage. For union workers that is not the case. Seventy-five percent of all private sector union workers have medical benefits, 53 percent have dental care and 41 percent have vision care.

More vacation, holidays and sick leave

Union workers are more likely to receive vacation, holiday and sick leave than non-union workers do. Ninety percent of union workers receive paid vacations, versus 78 percent of non-union workers. Similarly, union workers are more likely to receive paid holidays — 91 percent compared to 78 percent.

Union advantage holds across occupations and industries

Blue-collar workers in manufacturing enjoy a substantial advantage from union representation — but so do workers in non-manufacturing settings. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report, “Union Members in 2003,” shows that the union advantage holds across occupations and industries. For example, union workers in protective service jobs (such as security guards and corrections officers) earn $857 per week, compared with $510 for non-union workers. The union premium also exists in office and administrative support occupations where union workers earn $632 per week compared to $510 per week for non-union workers. Unionized production workers earned $665 per week, compared with $495 for non-union workers. Unions also help close the gender gap in earnings. In 2003, non-union women earned 65 percent as union men and 78 percent as much as non-union men. In contrast, union women earned 86 percent as much as union men and 4 percent more than non-union men.