In the News

Unions Make for a Much More Family-Friendly Workplace
SEIU Blog, July 16, 2009

By Kate Thomas

In recent months, a whole slew of research has emerged showing why we need to restore workers' freedom to form unions and bargain through the Employee Free Choice Act.

Today, a new UC Berkeley report was released advance, granting further proof that the "union advantage" is substantial. The report, authored by the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education and the Labor Project for Working Families, found that companies with more unionized workers are more likely to pay for family health insurance premiums, embrace paid leave, and allow the use of personal leave to care for a sick child.

The economic crisis our nation is experiencing has been particularly devastating for workers, giving the need to pass legislation that will help ease the burden on working families a renewed urgency. Our economy is going full-throttle down a devastating path that's shrinking the middle class--but unions can help. Why? It's simple - unions raise wages and benefits for all workers, reduce worker turnover, protect our retirement, and lift up the economy by increasing the purchasing power of hard-working Americans.

"Today's report underscores that, at a time when many greedy corporations are cruelly cutting wages, healthcare and retirement security, unionized workplaces continue to promote family-friendly policies that build a strong middle-class," said SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger.

A few of the report's key findings:

Research has shown that 60 million American workers would join a union tomorrow if they could--and this report is further evidence of the many benefits unionized workers receive in the workplace compared to their nonunion counterparts. Unions have been responsible for the creation of the middle class, and pioneered such benefits as health care, pensions, even the weekend. But in the last several decades, forming a union in the workplace has become increasingly difficult, in large part because of the ineffectiveness of current labor law to protect and enforce workers' rights in the election process.

Study authors Jenifer MacGillvary of the Labor Center at the University of California-Berkeley and Netsy Firestein of the Labor Project for Working Families also note union members are more likely to have access to resources like child care referrals, education assistance, vacation days and wellness programs. "As a mother, I know that millions of women struggle to raise a healthy, happy family while their employers refuse to allow them to care for a sick child, or to provide affordable healthcare," said Anna Burger. "Passing the Employee Free Choice Act, critical legislation that would allow workers to bargain with their employers for better wages and benefits, would have ripple effects across the economy."

No matter what else we do to turn around America's economy and rebuild the middle class, we will not have broadly shared prosperity until we restore workers' free choice to bargain with their companies for a better life--without corporate intimidation. Read the full report: "Family-Friendly Workplaces: Do Unions Make a Difference?"

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