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:

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?