SEATTLE -- Union workers on average earn $201 a week more than their non-union counterparts, new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows.
The extra income – which equals roughly $10,500 a year more – can make a real difference in the lives of working Americans, said Machinists Union District Lodge 751 President Tom Wroblewski.
“When a paycheck is that much bigger, it makes it easier to buy a house or a new car, to save for a child’s education or just take a long vacation,” he said. “All these basic elements of the American Dream are more within reach when you have a union representing you at work.”
The new BLS data shows that the average union worker earned $943 a week in 2012, or roughly $49,000 a year. That was a 1 percent increase over the year before.
Non-union workers, by comparison, earned only $742 a week, or roughly $38,500 a year – which is 27 percent less than the pay for union members.
“We often say it pays to be union,” Wroblewski said. “These numbers show that it’s literally true.”
Union workers also have better benefits at work, federal data shows.
A separate BLS report last year showed that 93 percent of union workers nationwide had employer-provided health care benefits, 93 percent had employer-provided retirement benefits and 85 percent had life insurance benefits.
By contrast, only 69 percent of non-union workers get health care benefits at work, only 64 percent have a retirement plan and only 57 percent get life insurance through their job.
The new BLS report also debunks a theory promoted by conservative politicians, who falsely claim that unions slow economic growth.
Washington – which was one of the states with the fastest job growth in 2012 – was also among the leaders in union density. The BLS report showed that 18.5 percent of all workers in Washington state – 513,000 in all – belong to a union. That’s the fourth-highest unionization rate nationwide.
“Some professional union-haters say you can’t grow a state economy unless you get rid of unions and slash pay and benefits,” Wroblewski said. “But I’d say the opposite is true. What happens here in Washington is that union workers at companies like Boeing have more money to spend at local businesses, which creates prosperity for everyone.”
Attacks on unions only hurt local economies, he said.
“Just think of where the Main Street businesses in our state would be if a half-million consumers were hit with 27-percent pay cuts,” Wroblewski said. “It would be an economic disaster. But thanks to unions like ours, working people are able to support both their families and their communities.”
Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at the Boeing Co., District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents nearly 34,000 working men and women at 48 employers across Washington, Oregon and California.
To learn more about District 751, read the Machinist News.