Women Represented by Unions Earn Higher Wages

The HR & Payroll Resource Center is your integrated, comprehensive source for HR and Payroll information that merges news, analysis, and guidance – including custom answers,...

By Ben Penn

Aug. 26 — Women represented by unions earned more than their nonunion counterparts in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, with their weekly pay anywhere from 4.5 percent to 53 percent more, the Institute for Women's Policy Research reported Aug. 26.

The analysis of government data over the past four years shows that the median weekly earnings of full-time working women who are covered by a union contract was $899, compared with $687 per week for women not represented by a union. The $212 difference equates to a 30.9 percent pay premium, the Washington-based organization said.

In 32 states, the wage advantage would cover the cost of full-time child care for an infant, the IWPR found.

The report was released as part of the IWPR's “Status of Women in the States: 2015” project. The first study in the series focused on the lack of improvement in closing the male-to-female wage gap over the past decade. The briefing paper was funded in part by the American Federation of Teachers.

“Union representation brings with it greater pay transparency and helps ensure that employers set pay based on objective criteria, such as skill, effort, and responsibility,” Ariane Hegewisch, a study director at the IWPR and co-author of the briefing paper, said in an accompanying statement. “Unfortunately, many women around the country are not able to experience this union advantage.”

Women accounted for 6.6 million of the nation's 14.6 million union members in 2014, the briefing paper said, citing Labor Department figures. Women's 45.5 percent share of all union members last year was up from 42.6 percent in 2004 and 39.7 percent in 1994.

Wyoming Leads Nation

The largest wage advantage for union workers in the nation was in Wyoming, where the typical union-represented female worker earned 53 percent more than her nonunion counterpart, the IWPR reported.

Other sizable premiums were in South Carolina (46.2 percent) and Louisiana (42.1 percent).

Although women covered by union contracts in the District of Columbia had the lowest wage advantage (4.5 percent), the district's female workers—both union and nonunion—receive greater weekly wages than anywhere else in the nation, the research found.

Pay premiums also were less distinct in Colorado (11.9 percent) and Hawaii (14.6 percent).

For more information, see Compensation and Benefits Library’s Equal Pay Act chapter.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at bpenn@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com