Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Is the Path to Gender Pay Equity Through Unionization?

A study (PDF) released this week by the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows that women joining unions has a big impact on increasing wages. Women in unions see an average increase of about 11 percent, or about $2 an hour. Women in unions are also more likely to have health insurance and pensions than women with four-year college degrees. Currently women make up about 45 percent of all unionized workers, and are on track to become the majority of unionized workers by 2020.

My guess is that this has a lot to do with unions having increasing power in traditionally female professions. Health care workers, for instance, have been targeted by organizers to unionize. Traditionally female roles like caregivers have long been subject to low pay and little thanks. By organizing these workers, women are gaining real earning power in what is a skilled profession, but has traditionally not thought of as such. Today, health care workers are one of Service Employees International Union (SEIU)’s main constituencies.

The idea behind unionization is for skilled workers to gain negotiating power–this is something women have traditionally been thought of ask lacking. So if more women join unions, they can take the power of collective bargaining to help close the gender inequality gap. Women in professions that don’t require higher education can actually earn more if they join a union.

Cross posted at Pushback.

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