How have labour unions benefitted our society? Union activism brought us:
Weekends! Literally. There used to be an expression: "Don't come to work on Sunday, don't come to work on Monday." Meaning, if you took one day off, you were fired.
Vacations - any vacation
The 8-hour work day
An end to child labour, so every child could have an education
Equal pay for equal work for women
Canada Pension Plan
Universal health care
The minimum wage
Pregnancy and parental Leave
The right to strike
Anti-discrimination rules at work
Health and safety rules
The 40 hour work week
Worker’s compensation for on-the-job injuries
Collective bargaining rights
Wrongful termination laws
Whistleblower protection laws
Anti-sexual harassment laws
Unions even help nonunionized workers get better pay and benefits. Here's how.
Unions have a substantial impact on the compensation and work lives of both unionized and non-unionized workers. This report presents current data on unions’ effect on wages, fringe benefits, total compensation, pay inequality, and workplace protections.
Some of the conclusions are:
Unions raise wages of unionized workers by roughly 20% and raise compensation, including both wages and benefits, by about 28%.
Unions reduce wage inequality because they raise wages more for low- and middle-wage workers than for higher-wage workers, more for blue-collar than for white-collar workers, and more for workers who do not have a college degree.
Strong unions set a pay standard that nonunion employers follow. For example, a high school graduate whose workplace is not unionized but whose industry is 25% unionized is paid 5% more than similar workers in less unionized industries.
The impact of unions on total nonunion wages is almost as large as the impact on total union wages.
The most sweeping advantage for unionized workers is in fringe benefits. Unionized workers are more likely than their nonunionized counterparts to receive paid leave, are approximately 18% to 28% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance, and are 23% to 54% more likely to be in employer-provided pension plans.
Unionized workers receive more generous health benefits than nonunionized workers. They also pay 18% lower health care deductibles and a smaller share of the costs for family coverage. In retirement, unionized workers are 24% more likely to be covered by health insurance paid for by their employer.
Unionized workers receive better pension plans. Not only are they more likely to have a guaranteed benefit in retirement, their employers contribute 28% more toward pensions.
Unionized workers receive 26% more vacation time and 14% more total paid leave (vacations and holidays).
Unions play a pivotal role both in securing legislated labor protections and rights such as safety and health, overtime, and family/medical leave and in enforcing those rights on the job. Because unionized workers are more informed, they are more likely to benefit from social insurance programs such as unemployment insurance and workers compensation.