To commemorate Labor Day, President Joe Biden remarked that “unions built the middle class” and argued that, to revitalize the middle-class today, we need to strengthen the labor movement, noting that “worker power is essential to building our economy back better than before.” The president is clearly right that unions are key to strengthening and rebuilding the middle class. New research we conducted with our colleague Christian Weller finds that unions play a critical role in building wealth for middle-class families and reducing wealth gaps that disadvantage Black and Hispanic families.
Our analysis of the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances found that the median union family has over double the wealth of the median nonunion family. Wealth is a critical measure of the status of the middle class, as it enables families to buy a home, retire with dignity and invest in their children’s education. Wealth can also be a lifeline during times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 recession. Additionally, we found that the wealth gap between white families and Black and Hispanic families was significantly smaller for union households compared to nonunion households, illustrating how unions help make the middle class accessible to all.
The above excerpt was originally published in The Hill.
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