Report: Advantage of Unions Go Beyond Pay


The Teamsters have repeatedly written about the advantages workers receive from being in a union. That includes earning more, enjoying better benefits and more frequently having pensions, vacations and paid sick leave, than their non-union brethren. But a new report says there’s a real big union edge, one that anyone investing in the stock market would love to get.

The document, by Frank Manzo, director of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and Dr. Robert Bruno, director of the Labor Education Service at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, states that for every dollar an Illinois worker pays in union dues, he or she gets $6.12 back in better wages and benefits.

That’s a “return on investment” – a common term in the financial world – of more than 600 percent, far above what investors get from stocks, bonds and mutual funds.

“Any attempt to weaken labor organizations in Illinois, if successful, would reduce these positive impacts that union members have on the state,” the professors concluded. 

The scholars analyzed the required Labor Department forms, called LM-2s, that every union must send to the federal government yearly, to determine how much Illinois’ 258 union locals collected in dues. They then broke down the unions’ spending, also detailed in the LM-2s, into spending on collective bargaining, on contract administration and on everything else.

Then they compared the spending to the wages and benefits Illinois’ 744,439 unionized workers – as reported on the forms – earned, versus their non-union counterparts. The reports covered fiscal 2014, the last full data available. That year, 15.2 percent of Illinois workers were unionized.

Manzo and Bruno reported the average Illinois unionist paid $663 in dues, fees and other payments that year to his or her local, or about $55 per month. But that same unionist, according to federal data, earned $4,060 more, after taxes, than his or her non-union counterparts. The Illinois unionists were also 14 percent more likely to have health insurance.

Bruno and Manzo also reported union members “independently create nearly 43,000 additional jobs that would not exist in Illinois without unionization.” Those include 10,000 workers at union locals and 33,000 jobs due to higher spending by union households. The higher pay for unionists also added $218 million to state income tax revenue, the report says.

While the exact numbers may be different, it’s well known that many of these same benefits extend to workers in other states. For example, the median unionized U.S. worker makes $204 more a week than a non-union one. That’s a true advantage anyone would enjoy.