Unions help narrow the gender wage gap


Unions help narrow the gender wage gap

Tuesday, April 4th is Equal Pay Day— the day that marks when a typical woman’s earnings catch up to what a man earned in the previous year. The gender wage gap is a measure of pay disparity between men and women. The research is conclusive: gender wage gaps exist across the wage distribution and among workers of every education level. The median woman worker (that worker in the exact middle of the distribution of women’s wages) is paid 83 cents for every dollar that the median man is paid. Among workers who have a college degree or advanced degree, the gap is even larger, with women being paid only 73 cents on the male dollar. Women of color face dual penalties of racial and gender-based pay gaps; black and Hispanic women are paid only 65 cents and 59 cents on the white male dollar. Closing the gender wage gap is essential to helping women achieve economic security. We should use all the tools available to combat the factors contributing to pay disparities. Some of these tools include establishing standardized rates of pay, requiring more transparency in compensation data, strongly enforcing antidiscrimination laws, and allowing workers to earn additional benefits such as paid sick and family leave, which help enable workers to balance demands at home and at work. For the vast majority of women, true economic security and a fair share of the economy’s growth will require combining progress in closing gender-based pay disparities with progress in linking their wage growth to economy-wide productivity growth, a linkage that has been severed in recent decades. The levers that will allow the wages of the vast majority of both men and women’s wages to benefit from overall economic growth include allowing the economy to reach and stay at genuine full employment, and raising labor standards such as updating the minimum wage and the overtime threshold. One promising way to address both gender-specific disparities and the broken link between all typical workers’ pay and economy-wide productivity growth is through the resuscitation of collective bargaining. Unions have been proven to provide women with higher wages and better benefits. As shown in the figure below, working women in unions are paid 94 cents, on average, for every dollar paid to unionized working men, compared with 78 cents on the dollar for non-union women as a share of nonunion men’s dollar. Furthermore, hourly wages for women represented by unions are 23 percent higher than for nonunionized women. Unions provide a boost to women regardless of their race or ethnicity. The gender wage gap is significantly smaller among both white and black unionized workers than their nonunion counterparts. Unionized workers are also more likely to have access to various kinds of paid leave, from paid sick days, vacations, and holidays to paid family and medical leave, enabling them to balance work and family obligations. Figure A Women’s hourly pay as a share of men’s hourly pay, by union status, overall, by race and ethnicity, and regression adjusted, 2016 Demographic Union Nonunion All 94% 6% 78% 22% White 94% 6% 76% 24% Black 100% 0% 88% 12% Hispanic 88% 12% 84% 16% Regression-adjusted 82% 18% 78% 22% Chart Data Download data The data below can be saved or copied directly into Excel. The data underlying the figure. Notes: Economic Policy Institute (EPI) analysis of CPS ORG hourly wage data for workers age 18 to 64. The union coverage are workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement. The regression-based gap controls for gender, race and ethnicity, education, experience, and geographic division. The log of the hourly wage is the dependent variable
women unions and labor standards perkins project


Elise Gould, Celine McNicholas

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