Labor Day facts: Union jobs offer women, minorities better life

The rigged economy disproportionately hurts women and people of color. But unions provide the most effective vehicle for women and people of color to gain their fair share of the wealth they create and to secure the freedoms and rights they deserve.

Those in the labor movement know that civil rights and economic rights are inextricably linked. As Dr. King believed, one cannot be achieved without the other. That is why, in 1968, Dr. King came to the aid of striking Memphis sanitation workers who were protesting inhumane conditions that led to the gruesome death of two workers on the job. The striking workers were demanding that their union be recognized.

Today, the labor movement and its allies continue to carry that legacy to stand up to bigotry, discrimination and inequality in the workplace and in our communities. So called “right-to-work” laws originated in the Jim Crow south and were designed to keep black workers disenfranchised and less able to organize for power. Today, billionaire CEOs and right-wing politicians continue to rig the rules against people of color, using state legislatures and the U.S. court system to push through these so called “right-to work” laws that keep wages down for everyone, both union and non-union alike.

Just the facts:

  • Union jobs have historically been and continue to be a path to the middle class for communities of color, who often face low wages in their professions. Black union members today earn 14.7% more and Latino union workers 21.8% more than their non-union counterparts. In some sectors the difference is even greater.
  • Black women in unions earn an average of $21.90 an hour while non-union women earn $17.04. In addition, more than 72% of women in unions have health insurance, while less than 50% of non-union black women do.
  • When Latinos are members of a union, their median weekly income increases by more than 38% and, in some cases, are 41% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance.
  • Because unions allow all workers to join together to negotiate with their employers for fair wages and benefits, the wage gap between women and men in unions is dramatically lower than in non-union workplaces – about 9 cents and shrinking. Meanwhile, most non-union women still earn 78 cents for every dollar a man makes.

Source: AFL-CIO