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Infographic: Six Ways Unions Build a Strong Middle Class

Infographic: Six Ways Unions Build a Strong Middle Class

An illustration of how unions give workers more power in the economy and the political process.



Unions raise wages and benefits

"Workers who join unions earn 15 percent more-or $2.50 more per hour-than nonunion counterparts and are more likely to have health and retirement benefits."

John Schmitt, “The Union of the States” (Washington: Center for Economic and Policy Research, 2010).

Unions build career ladders to the middle class

"Fifty-six percent of unionized workers have access to work related education assistance compared to 48 percent of nonunion workers."

Bureau of Labor Statistics, “National Compensation Survey: Employment Benefits in Private Industry in the United States, March 2007” (2007), available at (The BLS has not updated this statistic since 2007.)

Also, when unions are involved, training is of higher quality…

C . Jeffery Waddoups, “Union-Management Training Partnerships in the Hotel Industry: The Case of Las Vegas and San Francisco.” Working Paper (The New Economic Information Service and the Foundation for Democratic Education, 2002).

Daniel Marschall, “The institutionalization of workplace learning in American unions: Innovations for new work systems and labor movement renewal.” In David Finegold and others, eds., Transforming the U.S. Workforce Development System: Lessons from Research and Practice (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010).

Unions ensure middle-class workers are represented in corporate decision making

"Unions help create internal balance in corporate decision making. If unions were stronger today, more corporations would consider how middle class workers were affected when making major decisions."

Sanford Jacoby, The Embedded Corporation: Corporate Governance and Human Resources Management in the United States and Japan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005).

Unions promote political participation

"For every 1 percent increase in union density, voter turnout for all Americans increases by 0.2 to 0.25 percent-…"

Benjamin Radcliff and Patricia Davis, “Labor Organization and Electoral Participation in Industrial Democracies,” American Journal of Political Science, 44 (1) (2000): 132-141.

Unions help balance the disproportionate influence of corporations and trade associations on Congress

"In 2010, corporate and trade associations Political Action Committees outspent labor by $218 million And the difference in lobbying expenses was over $2 billion."

Center for Responsive Politics, “Lobbying, Top Spenders,” and “Ranked Sectors,” available at:

Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, “Winner Takes All Politics: Public Policy, Political Organization, and the Precipitous Rise of Top Incomes in the United States,” Politics and Society 38 (152) (2010).

Unions help ensure policies that benefit the middle class

"It would be hard to exaggerate the influence that the labor movement has had on creating and maintaining the social safety net that undergirds the American middle class."

Paul Krugman, “The Great Wealth Transfer,” Rolling Stone, December 14, 2006.

Thomas Byrne Edsall, The New Politics of Inequality (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1984).

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