Union Members Can Count the Benefits of Membership

Article excerpt

Union members in the private sector are earning almost 39 percent more than non-union workers, according to data compiled by the AFL-CIO.

The biggest advantage lies in benefits, such as paid leave, health insurance, pension and savings plans.

When the AFL-CIO compiled figures on workers holding a union card as of March 1993, it found unionized workers earned a total of $6.10 more per hour, counting benefits, than non-union workers.

The figures were provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the year to March 1992, the disparity was $5.86.

Private-sector union employees last year earned total compensation - wages, salaries and benefits - of $21.86 per hour, compared with $15.76 for non-union workers.

Differences in weekly pay, negligible among professionals, become very apparent among workers in sales and clerical. They were striking among construction and farm workers.

The union advantage also shows up when the data are examined by race and gender. For example, unionized women are paid $130 more a week than non-union, $504 to $374. Union men are paid $128 more, $608 to $490.

For Hispanics and Afro-Americans, the pay differential is greater still. Those holding union cards earn $170 and $160 more per week, respectively, than their non-union counterparts.

Union officials concede that last year non-union workers got wage boosts of 3.1 percent, compared with 3 percent for their members.

"The real union advantage was apparent in the area of benefits," said labor economist Robert Lucore of the AFL-CIO, "where such items as paid leave, supplemental pay, health insurance, pension and savings plans are measured."

He said, "The main thing negotiators are fighting for over the table now is health care, and the chief difference between union and non-union is that union people have been more able to hold on to their benefits in recent years."

Raymond Hilgert, professor of management and industrial relations at Washington University in St. …