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Union Workers Earn More Than Nonunion

Yet, union membership has been declining since 1983 

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American workers who are members of unions earn significantly more per hour than their nonunion counterparts, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Data from the BLS National Compensation Survey shows that in July 2002, average hourly earnings among all union workers were $20.65, compared with $16.42 for nonunion workers.

In 2002, full-time wage and salary workers who were union members had median usual weekly earnings of $740, compared with a median of $587 for wage and salary workers who were not represented by unions.

Unionized workers in blue-collar occupations averaged $18.88 per hour, compared with $12.95 for nonunion blue-collar workers. The highest paid blue-collar workers among the major occupational groups were precision production, craft, and repair workers; in this group, union workers had average hourly earnings of $23.05, compared with $16.33 for nonunion workers.

Among service occupations, union workers had average hourly earnings of $16.22, compared with $8.98 for nonunion workers.

In two white-collar major occupational groups, average hourly earnings were higher for nonunion than for union workers. The first was executive, administrative, and managerial occupations, in which nonunion earnings averaged $31.48 per hour, and union earnings averaged $26.73. The second was sales workers, among whom nonunion workers had average hourly earnings of $14.58, compared with $12.78 for their union counterparts.

Union workers are considered those whose wages are determined through a collective bargaining process.

BLS Defines collective bargaining as a method whereby representatives of employees (unions) and employers determine the conditions of employment through direct negotiation, normally resulting in a written contract setting forth the wages, hours, and other conditions to be observed for a stipulated period (e.g., 3 years).

In 2002, 13.2 percent of wage and salary workers were union members, down from 13.4 percent (as revised) in 2001.

The number of persons belonging to a union fell by 280,000 over the year to 16.1 million in 2002. The union membership rate has steadily declined from a high of 20.1 percent in 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available.

Other interesting fact about union membership from the BLS include:

  • Of all U.S. workers, men (14.7 percent) were more likely to be union members than women (11.6 percent).

  • Nearly 4 in 10 government workers were union members in 2002, compared with less than 1 in 10 workers in private-sector industries. The transportation industry had the highest private-sector rate of unionization.

  • Nearly two-fifths of workers in protective service occupations were union members in 2002. Protective service occupations include fire- fighters and police officers. This group has had the highest union membership rate of any broad occupation group in every year since 1983.
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