Ensuring workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain collectively should be a key part of an anti-poverty strategy. Among workers in similar jobs, unionized workers have higher pay, higher rates of health coverage, and better benefits than do non-unionized workers. Unions help nonunionized workers, too, by creating competitive pressure for employers to improve their wages and benefits. Joining a union can be especially important to low-wage workers. Union cashiers, for example, earn 46 percent more than non-union cashiers, union food preparation workers earn nearly 50 percent more, and union maids and housekeeping cleaners earn 31 percent more.
In recent decades, the share of private-sector workers who are unionized has fallen to a historic low of 7.4 percent. A recent survey, however, suggests that 53 percent of non-union, non-managerial workers would definitely or probably vote to form a union if an election were held in their workplace.
Congress should enact and the president should sign and enforce the Employee Free Choice Act. The Act would require employers to recognize a union after a majority of workers signs cards authorizing union representation. The Act also provides for mediation and arbitration of first-contract disputes and establishes stronger penalties for violation of employee rights during first-contract negotiations and when workers seek to form a union.
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