From 2001 to 2011, through one mild recession and one huge one, union workers maintained their wage edge compared to all other workers.
A recent Bureau of Labor Statistics Analysis shows that the average union worker in March 2011 earned $23.02 hourly, or nearly $48,000 a year, and the average non-union worker earned $19.51 hourly, or about $40,600 a year.
The wage difference varied over the 11 years, but there was an average $3.88 an hour advantage to union members.
Union members’ wages actually rose slower than those who aren’t in unions — up 25 percent over 11 years compared to 32 percent — but both groups’ wage gains were far smaller than the inflation in employers’ benefit costs.
The amount companies spent on insurance, retirement and paid days off grew 46 percent during the period for non-union workers and 55 percent for union members.
Where the unions really deliver for their members is in benefits. By 2011, the average value of all fringe benefits — health insurance, dental insurance, vacations, pension, paid sick leave, disability coverage, employer matches on 401(K) plans — was $14.67 an hour for union members.
By contrast, the 87 percent of workers who aren’t represented by unions received $7.56 an hour in fringe benefits. The union members’ benefits were worth almost twice as much.
Among unionized workers, 93 percent have health insurance offered by their employers, and 69 percent of non-union workers do.
The big differences — 70 percent of unionized workers in the private sector have traditional pensions. For those who work outside government, and are not in a union, just 14 percent have pensions.
In many cases, those workers have no support for retirement outside Social Security — just 59 percent have an employer contribution to a 401(k).