In the News
The Union Difference
Work and Family Blog (Sloan Work and Family Research Network), July 29, 2009
By Julie Schwartz Weber
Netsy Firestein, Director of the Labor Project for Working Families, and Jenifer MacGillvary, Communications Coordinator from the University of California at Berkeley's Center for Labor Research and Education, recently issued a new report, Family-Friendly Workplaces: Do Unions Make a Difference? Upon reviewing a number of studies that compare union workplaces with nonunion workplaces vis--vis the promotion of a variety of family-friendly policies, the report resoundingly concludes that yes, unions do make a difference.
Generally, the report finds that in most areas, unionized workers receive more generous family-friendly benefits than their nonunionized counterparts. More particularly, the report finds that unionized workers are more likely than their nonunionized counterparts to:
- work in a place that promotes compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act
- receive fully paid and partially paid leaves (46% of hourly union workers versus 29% of hourly nonunion workers)
- be allowed to use their own sick time to care for a sick child (1.3x as likely as a nonunionized worker)
- have paid personal leave that can be used to care for sick children (50% more likely than a nonunionized worker)
- receive employer-paid family health insurance premiums (companies with 30 percent or more unionized workers are 5x as likely as companies with no unionized workers to pay the entire health care premium)
- receive child-care resource and referral services or dependent-care reimbursement accounts
- receive more vacation time and paid holidays
Interestingly, in one family-friendly area, that of providing flexible work arrangements, there did not appear to be a union advantage; instead, the report finds that the few studies related to this issue seemingly show a negative relationship between unionization and flexible work arrangements. The authors conjecture that this may be due to the fact that many types of flexibility are not an option for some occupations, like telecommuting for factory workers.
The report concludes with a call to action: Future researchers should go beyond "the blunt and largely incidental research" on unions and family-friendly policies that exists today. Rather, they should seek to gain a "more nuanced and detailed understanding of the difference unions make," by including appropriate controls for industry and occupation in future research.
Do you belong to a union and do you find this to be a positive indicator for promotion of family-friendly workplace policies?