Unionized Workers Earn $1.3 Million More

artistic image of workers striking
Unions improve the working conditions across the board for any industry they are in, plus when unions work together they can inspire mass change. Anti unionists argue against unions because members have to contribute dues which, they argue, lowers total earnings. This is a flat-out lie. Researchers at Cornell University have concluded that unionized workers earn a cumulative 1.3 million USD more than non-unionized workers in the same field. The next time somebody argues union dues lower the take home pay, show them this study.

Studies on labor union earnings premiums generally investigate their size through point-in-time estimates. This study posits, by contrast, that point-in-time estimates of the union premium overlook the cumulative earnings advantages of long-term, persistent union membership. Using a sample of men from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics from 1969 to 2019, the authors investigate how lifetime union membership contributes to earnings advantages. They find, first, that unionization throughout one’s career is associated with a $1.3 million mean increase in lifetime earnings, larger than the average gains from completing college. Second, the lifetime earnings gains are channeled entirely through higher hourly wages and occur despite earlier-than-average retirement for persistently unionized men. Third, the union wage premium is not constant throughout a worker’s career; instead it increases with more years of union membership. The cumulative advantages of union membership for workers’ economic well-being are far greater than point-in-time estimates suggest.

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