There’s this notion out there that unions are great for union members, and that’s pretty much it. But a new report from the Economic Policy Institute looks at how the decline in labor unions has affected nonunion workers.
Since the late 1970s, unionization has declined, particularly among men in the private sector who don’t have a college degree. Jake Rosenfeld, who teaches sociology at Washington University, co-authored this study and said strong unions mean higher wages for both union members and nonmembers.
Rosenfeld looked at nonunion wage growth since 1979. He said union decline has had a staggering effect on nonunion workers.
“We’re talking about over $100 billion a year in lost wages,” he said.
Adjusted for inflation, he found the median pay for those men without a college degree is about 13 percent lower than in 1979.
One reason? What Arin Dube called the “threat effect.” Dube, a visiting professor of economics at Boston University, said when there are a lot of unions, “even nonunion employers may raise wages to prevent unionization.”
At the same time, Dube said, unions can drive wages down when higher pay leads companies to cut jobs.
If you’re a member of your local public radio station, we thank you — because your support helps those stations keep programs like Marketplace on the air. But for Marketplace to continue to grow, we need additional investment from those who care most about what we do: superfans like you.
Your donation — as little as $5 — helps us create more content that matters to you and your community, and to reach more people where they are – whether that’s radio, podcasts or online.
When you contribute directly to Marketplace, you become a partner in that mission: someone who understands that when we all get smarter, everybody wins.