Unionization Substantially Improves the Pay and Benefits of African Americans
Unionization Substantially Improves the Pay and Benefits of African AmericansUnion Membership Plays Valuable Role in Countering Economic Inequality
For Immediate Release: March 31, 2008
Contact: Alan Barber, 202-293-5380 x115
WASHINGTON, D.C. - On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had traveled to support city sanitation workers who were striking for better pay and working conditions. While much has changed, a report released today by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) shows that four decades after King's death, unionized African Americans continue to make more money and have better benefits than their non-union counterparts.
The report, "Unions and Upward Mobility for African-American Workers," found that unionized black workers earned, on average, 12 percent more than their non-union peers. In addition, black workers in unions were much more likely to have health-insurance benefits and a pension plan.
"The data demonstrate that unions raise wages and increase access to health insurance and pensions," said John Schmitt, a Senior Economist at CEPR and the author of the study. "Unions continue to be a central element of any plan to improve economic equality in this country."
The report, which analyzed data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey (CPS), found that unionization raises the pay of African-American workers by about $2.00 per hour. According to the report, black workers in unions were also 16 percentage points more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and 19 percentage points more likely to have an employer-provided pension plan than black workers who were not in unions.
According to the study, unionization has an even more dramatic effect on black workers in low-wage jobs. Among African-American workers in the 15 lowest-paying occupations, union members earned 14 percent more than those workers who were not in unions. In the same low-wage occupations, unionized black workers were 20 percentage points more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and 28 percentage points more likely to have a pension plan than their non-union counterparts.
Additional state-specific information is available from the following organizations:
Co-Director of Research
Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE)
Center on Policy Initiatives
Research Institute for Social and Economic Policy Center for Labor Research and Studies
Fax: (305) 348-2241
Rochelle A. Finzel
Director, Institute for Working Families
Indiana Coalition on Housing and Homeless Issues (ICHHI)
(317) 636-8819 ext. 1255
Fax: (317) 361-4859
Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Reno Office
David Dyssegaard Kallick
Fiscal Policy Institute
NC Budget & Tax Center
Policy Matters Ohio
Oregon Center for Public Policy
Mark A. Price, Ph.D.
Keystone Research Center
Center for Public Policy Priorities
(512) 320-0222 ext. 108
Allison Rowland, PhD
Budget and Research Director
Voices for Utah Children
fax (801) 364-1186
Sara C. Okos
The Commonwealth Institute
(804) 643-2474 ext.118
Marilyn P. Watkins, Ph.D.
Economic Opportunity Institute
West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy
Center on Wisconsin Strategy / Center for State Innovation
The Center for Economic and Policy Research is an independent, nonpartisan think tank that was established to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives. CEPR's Advisory Board of Economists includes Nobel Laureate economists Robert Solow and Joseph Stiglitz; Richard Freeman, Professor of Economics at Harvard University; and Eileen Appelbaum, Professor and Director of the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University.