Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Newsflash: Benefits of Union Membership Declining by the Year

Unions have always turned to the same trump card when trying to convince employees to unionize: Unions members make more money.

It’s a compelling and appealing argument. But it’s also becoming less true by the year. Bloomberg BNA has released a new report demonstrating that the wage gap is growing smaller—and mainly because union wages are declining.

The drops aren’t staggering, but they’re definitely noticeable. As BNA noted:

[E]ven though union members earned about $1.21 for every dollar earned by nonunion workers in 2012, their mean hourly wage fell for the second year in a row—only the fourth back-to-back decline in the past 30 years. Nonunion workers, on the other hand, saw their wages in 2012 grow for the first time in four years.

These changes are close to historic levels, as they have “ narrow[ed] the gap between union and nonunion pay to its third-lowest point (79.1 percent) since the Data Book started keeping track in 1973.”

Nowhere are these seismic shifts more apparent than in the private sector. For the second time in the last decade, the ratio between union and nonunion pay is higher in the public sector than in the private sector—$1.18 on the dollar to $1.17, respectively. This is a dramatic drop since the 1980s, when “the ratio used to be as high as $1.35 in the 1980s.”

Some industries have even seen nonunion pay exceed union pay. Consider the case of manufacturing where “union members earned just 96 cents for every dollar earned by nonunion workers.”

Oh, and one other thing: None of these numbers factor in union dues. Once those are accounted for, the wage differential grows smaller still. Ouch.

All told, these changes point to something that many union members have known for years: Union officials are no longer serving the best interest of their members. Instead of prioritizing workers’ welfare, they’ve become distracted by the billions they spend on political campaigns, the size of their own paychecks, and other peripheral issues—none of which help the people they claim to represent.

Categories: Center for Union FactsNewsPolitical MoneyUnion Spending