Unions Boost Women’s Earnings, Benefits, and Workplace Flexibility

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Unions Boost Women’s Earnings, Benefits, and Workplace Flexibility

Union coverage can play significant role in strengthening the workplace to better support the needs of women and working families.

WASHINGTON - Over the past four decades, women have played increasingly important roles as breadwinners in their families. At the same time, women’s share of unpaid care work and housework has remained high. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), “Women, Working Families, and Unions,” explores the role unions play in addressing the challenges facing working women and families in balancing their work and family responsibilities. The paper looks at trends in unionization for women; the impact of unions on wages, benefits and access to family and medical leave; and the role of unions in addressing work-life balance issues.

“There are few other interventions known to improve the prospects for better pay, benefits and workplace flexibility as much as unions do.  Anyone who cares about the well-being of women workers and working families should also care about unions,” states Nicole Woo, a co-author of the report.

The report finds that unions increase access to benefits that help working families succeed in this economy. Women in unions are 36 percent more likely to receive health insurance benefits through their jobs and 53 percent more likely to participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

Unions also support working Americans when they need time off to care for themselves or their families.  Union workplaces are 16 percent more likely to allow medical leave and 21 percent more likely to offer paid sick leave.  Companies with unionized employees are also 22 percent more likely to allow parental leave, 12 percent more likely to offer pregnancy leave, and 19 percent more likely to let their workers take time off to care for sick family members.  

One out of nine women in the United States are represented by unions. They make up almost half of the union workforce and are on track to be the majority by 2025. The report also analyses the demographics of women in unions, including the shares of black, Latino, white, and Asian and Pacific Islander women, educational attainment, age, occupations, and states of residence.

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The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) was established in 1999 to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives. In order for citizens to effectively exercise their voices in a democracy, they should be informed about the problems and choices that they face. CEPR is committed to presenting issues in an accurate and understandable manner, so that the public is better prepared to choose among the various policy options.

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