Press Release Unions

Unionization Substantially Improves the Pay and Benefits of African Americans

March 31, 2008

Contact: Karen Conner, (202) 293-5380 x117Mail_Outline

March 31, 2008

Unionization Substantially Improves the Pay and Benefits of African Americans

Union 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:

Jessica Goodheart
Co-Director of Research
Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE)
(323) 356-1081

Donald Cohen
Executive Director
Center on Policy Initiatives
(619) 708-3367

Emily Eisenhauer
Research Associate
Research Institute for Social and Economic Policy Center for Labor Research and Studies
(305) 348-1415
Fax: (305) 348-2241
[email protected]

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
[email protected]

Sean Dobson
Executive Director
Progressive Maryland
(240) 393-6798

Joe Edson
Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Reno Office
(775) 348-7557

New York:
David Dyssegaard Kallick
Senior Fellow
Fiscal Policy Institute
(212) 721-7164
(212) 721-5415
[email protected]

North Carolina:
John Quinterno
Research Associate
NC Budget & Tax Center
(919) 856-3185
[email protected]

Amy Hanauer
Policy Matters Ohio
(216) 361-9801

Mike Leachman
Policy Analyst
Oregon Center for Public Policy
(503) 873-1201
[email protected]

Mark A. Price, Ph.D.
Labor Economist
Keystone Research Center
(717) 255-7181
[email protected]

Don Baylor
Center for Public Policy Priorities
(512) 320-0222 ext. 108
[email protected]

Allison Rowland, PhD
Budget and Research Director
Voices for Utah Children
(801) 364-1182
fax (801) 364-1186

Sara C. Okos
Policy Analyst
The Commonwealth Institute
(804) 643-2474 ext.118
[email protected]

Marilyn P. Watkins, Ph.D.
Policy Director
Economic Opportunity Institute
(206) 529-6370
[email protected]

West Virginia:
Ted Boettner
Executive Director
West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy
(304) 720-8682
[email protected]

Joel Rogers
Center on Wisconsin Strategy / Center for State Innovation
(608) 262-4266
[email protected]


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.

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