How Union Membership Benefits African American And Latino Workers

Workers across the country experience a “union premium” — an increase in wages for workers who belong to a labor union compared to workers who are not organized. That premium amounted to $1.24 per hour last year, a 17.3 percent premium. And according to a new study from the Economic Policy Institute, union membership is even more important for African American and Latino workers, whose union premiums exceed that of white workers.

Black union members have a union premium of $2.60, earning them about 17.3 percent more than black non-union workers. Black men who belong to a union see a 20 percent increase over the normal wage; for black women, the increase is 14.8 percent. Union membership is even more beneficial to Latinos, whose men and women workers earn union premiums of 29.3 percent and 15.7 percent, respectively. (Latinos’ union premium is 23.1 percent overall.):

The importance of union membership to blacks and Latinos is significant, given that both groups are already disadvantaged in the American economy. Both groups have unemployment rates that are far higher than the nation’s 8.3 percent rate. Black unemployment, in fact, has spent most of the last five decades above 10 percent. Black and Latino women are more likely to face larger gender wage gaps than whites, and blacks and Latinos face significant wage and wealth gaps when compared to white workers and families.

Unionization played an important role in the creation and prosperity of the American middle class, and the decline of America’s labor movement has significantly contributed to stagnation of wages and the rise of income inequality. The further decline of labor only stands to hurt workers who are already disadvantaged.