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Unions post big gains in Washington state

With 72,000 more members, state now ranks 3rd in union membership


SEATTLE (Jan. 20, 2022) — More and more people in Washington state are seeing the value of joining together in unions.

The state’s union membership rate increased to 19 percent of the total workforce in 2021, up from 17.4 percent in 2020, according to a report released today by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. With an additional 72,000 workers joining the ranks last year, there are now an estimated 629,000 union members in Washington, making it the third most unionized state in the nation behind only Hawaii and New York.

“This is great news not only for Washington’s union members who gain power with increased numbers, it’s good for all working people in this state,” said Larry Brown, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “When workers join together in unions, they earn more money, they boost our state and local economies, and fight to lift 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 collective action and joining together.”

Union membership once again meant higher wages in 2021. Median weekly earnings for union members was $1,169 last year, according to the BLS report, compared to $975 per week for non-union workers. That’s more than a 19 percent higher pay rate on average for union members. That’s the Union Difference.

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.

Despite public approval of unions being at an all-time high, the national union membership rate continued to decline in 2021 to 10.3 percent, down from 10.8 percent the prior year. The decline happened despite significant union momentum, with high-profile organizing victories in new industries and widespread strikes as workers stood up during the pandemic for better wages and working conditions.

The fact that unionization nevertheless declined is a glaring testament to how easy it is for employers who oppose unions to exploit weak and outdated federal labor laws to thwart workers’ attempts at join together in unions. That’s why organized labor has been fighting for U.S. labor law reform and urging the Senate to pass the House-approved Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act.

“At a national level, these 2021 numbers are a wake-up call,” Brown said. “Here in Washington state, despite these broken labor laws that create obstacles to unionization, working people are overcoming these undue barriers. But it shouldn’t be so hard to join together and demand a better life. Congress must pass the PRO Act and the Biden administration must promote the right to union representation and collective bargaining if we truly want to rebuild our economy.”

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!