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Washington state remains ‘Union Strong’

Union wages 20% higher; ‘Once again, union membership pays dividends,’ says WSLC’s Brown


SEATTLE (Jan. 25, 2021) — In 2019, Washington state ranked No. 1 among the States With the Strongest Unions, according to one study based on union membership rate, average wages for union members, and other factors. The latest federal data on union membership shows that union membership in Washington state may have dropped a bit during 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, but the state remains “Union Strong.”

Washington ranks #5 among the most unionized states in the country with union members accounting for 17.4 percent of the state’s workforce, according to the 2020 union membership report released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s significantly higher than the national unionization rate of 10.8 percent and the highest on the West Coast, but lower than Hawaii (23.7%), New York (22%), Rhode Island (17.8%), and Alaska (17.7%).

In 2019, the BLS reported Washington’s union membership rate was 18.8 percent, ranking the state #3. But as with everything related to 2020, the BLS warns that things may be a bit skewed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Data on union members for 2020 reflect the impact on the labor market of the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to contain it,” the BLS report cautions. “Comparisons with union membership measures for earlier years, including metrics such as the union membership rate and the median usual weekly earnings of union members, should be interpreted with caution.”

That said, union membership once again meant higher wages in 2020. Median weekly earnings for union members was $1,144 last year, according to the BLS report, compared to $958 per week for non-union workers. That’s a nearly 20 percent higher pay rate on average for union members. That’s the Union Difference.

“Once again, union membership pays dividends,” said Larry Brown, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “The collective power of standing together with your co-workers translates into higher wages and better health care and retirement benefits.”

But he also noted that it’s great news for all Washington workers, whether they are members or not, that Washington remains Union Strong.

“The fact that union members earn more money means that they also boost our state and local economies,” Brown said. “And also importantly, they fight for improved working standards for everyone. Higher minimum wages, paid sick leave, paid family leave, access to overtime pay. All of these things were fought for and won by Washington’s labor movement, but they benefit all workers. That’s the power of joining together and collective action.”

JOIN TOGETHER! — If you don’t have a union at your job, learn how to join together with your co-workers and get higher wages, better benefits and respect on the job. Click here to get started.

In addition to earning higher wages, the BLS also reports that union members are far more likely to have employer-provided health care and retirement benefits:

► 95 percent of union workers had the option of an employer-sponsored health care plan, compared to 68 percent of nonunion workers.

► 94 percent of union workers had access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, compared to 67 percent of nonunion workers.

► 93 percent of union workers had the option of an employer-sponsored prescription drug coverage, compared to 67 percent of nonunion workers.

► 74 percent of union workers had the option of an employer-sponsored dental plan, compared to 40 percent of nonunion workers.

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!