Across the board, union workers get higher pay

(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

Follow us on Twitter @AJCBiz

You’re sure to strike a nerve in many circles if you bring up the topic of unions and, in this case, union wages.

Unions have been receiving a lot of attention lately. Just this week Michigan’s governor signed right-to-work legislation that makes it illegal for unions to compel non-union employees in the private and public sectors, with some exceptions, to pay dues. (Georgia is also a right-to-work state). AT&T continues to negotiate new agreements with some of its unionized employees, although its 22,000 wireline workers in Georgia and other parts of the Southeast recently ratified new three-year contract.

CNN Money, relying on Bureau of Labor Statistics data, has looked into how the average pay of the top unions in this country stacks up against non-union workers’ wages. The bottom line is that across the board union wages are higher. Here are some of CNN’s highlights:

Government workers: “These workers make a median of $973 a week, roughly $230 more than their non-union counterparts.”

Teachers: “The union members earn $224 a week more than non-union educators, with median weekly earnings at $1,038.”

Firefighters and police officers: “Union workers make about $1,008 a week, and non-union workers make $627.”

Factory workers: “Union workers make about $836 a week, $56 a week more than non-union employees.”

Construction workers: “Union workers earn about $361 more per week than their non-union counterparts.”

Transportation and warehousing workers: “Union employees earn about $215 more per week, or 30%, than non-union workers.”

Utilities workers: “Union employees in this industry tend to earn 10.2% more per week than non-union workers.”

Georgia ranked 49th in union membership in 2011, with 3.9 percent of wage and salary workers belonging to unions. About 12 percent of U.S. workers belong to unions.

59 comments Add your comment


December 12th, 2012
12:21 pm

So, if we are 49th in membership, and wages are lower, why are we 5th highest in unemployment?


December 12th, 2012
12:26 pm

What’s your point…we need more unions?


December 12th, 2012
12:32 pm

Are those figures before or after union dues are deducted? In other words why not compare take home pay. We know government (public) sector union workers get paid obscene salaries, which is why so many city, county, and state budgets are getting blown up.


December 12th, 2012
12:35 pm

Government workers should be prohibited from forming unions.


December 12th, 2012
12:40 pm

Go get a master’s degree and get your own “union” job. No.. just complain on the internet and go watch Dancing with the Stars. Those unions are ruinin your life…


December 12th, 2012
12:40 pm

Interesting statistic but really doesn’t mean anything given it only segments 3.9% of the workforce. Much ado about nothing except some folks getting together for better pay. Better to look at MBA graduates and the old boys clubs for real pay inequality. And forget about gender…


December 12th, 2012
12:41 pm

Goodbye Unions, You are outdated! Unions are Corporations today only interested in their own income! Cya!


December 12th, 2012
12:42 pm

Hitler banned trade unions.


December 12th, 2012
12:42 pm

To hell with these abusive unions. Every employee should negotiate their own package based on their merits.


December 12th, 2012
12:43 pm

Looks to me like unions are doing a good job. What do you want – more walmart type salaries for the american workforce?


December 12th, 2012
12:43 pm

Higher Union membership also occurs in higher cost of living areas. This can make a dollar to dollar comparison inaccurate. To truly compare you must look at the buying power of the Union verses the non-Union.


December 12th, 2012
12:43 pm

Getting out of my union was the BEST THING I EVER DID!!! Wages were higher, but equality sucks. I’m one with a above average work ethic and others I worked with had no clue, yet, every 6 months, they get the same pay raises. Unions dont back their workers like they say they do. Unions make it hard for companies to fire bad or unproductive workers. Unions are crap.

Jim ONeill

December 12th, 2012
12:44 pm

I have mixed emotions about unions. I remember the 1970s when the U.S. auto industry was in one of its hay days. I lived near some auto workers and each time it was contract time, though they were already making good money with benefits, it was always about how much more could they get. It had nothing to do with what they deserved.

Over time, those high wages and benefits weakened the American auto industry so it could not compete and it drove both of GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy.

I also know that some companies care little about working condition and a living wage and in these circumstances, I see how a union could help.

So I’m not anti union but I’m not pro union either. Like businesses, unions can become too strong and when they do that, their greed destroys their Golden Goose. I wish I knew how to balance the benefits of unions with the need to be rational when working towards a contract. Perhaps, it is not possible.

Ronald Reagan

December 12th, 2012
12:45 pm

Right to work law is the only way to go! Management 1 Unions 0


December 12th, 2012
12:47 pm

JD, Have you seen your education system? The kids and teachers are so dumb, cheating by both is wide spread. Virginia is a RTW state and our unemployment is lower than the national average, but our schools are much better.


December 12th, 2012
12:50 pm

These numbers don’t match with wikipedia’s information at all. It’s difficult to control for all the factors that lead to differences in pay, so it’s not nearly as clear as the article states (in an unquestioning way for that matter). Wikepedia’s sourced information is union employees in non-right to work states get about 3-4% higher wages (pension contributions may be another matter). The right to work states generally have 3-4% lower payroll taxes, so it really not much of a statistical difference.


December 12th, 2012
12:56 pm

Way back in the ’30s, ’40s, & 50’s, we needed unions to protect workers. Then OSHA came along…safety, better working conditions, etc. Now, here in the 21st century, unions in many, many cases, are just protection for worker incompetence. It takes 6 months of paperwork, stacked sideways, to fire a union worker. Want to know why GM went under? When they closed some plants back in the ’90s, many union workers refused to move to other plants. Instead, they sat on their braincells and drew full wages and medical benefits for sometimes 10 years. You won’t find any unions in European or Asian automotive manufacturing. Now let’s talk about quality….

Lee Larsen

December 12th, 2012
12:58 pm

Union pensions are notoriously underfunded, bordering on criminally. A union member should be asking where the union bosses are getting all those millions to make political contributions. Unions were a good thing until the criminals started controlling the unions and skimming union dues to line their own pockets but good luck convincing a union member of such misdeeds.


December 12th, 2012
1:00 pm

Unions are for incompetent workers that must depend on the ability to have hostages to get their way in order to stay employed.


December 12th, 2012
1:09 pm

How can you tell if a union employee lives in your neighborhood ?
He’s the one with a boat in the driveway.

Curious how the pay inequities coincide with the demise of the unions.
You just keep supporting the “fairness” of the corporation and I’ll just keep supporting the union and we’ll see who has the better retirement. Two year degree and $32.71 per hour. Pension, Health Care, Vision, Dental, Life. 401K match 71 cents get real.


December 12th, 2012
1:14 pm

Those numbers do not make sense. Mainly because they are all Union shops/offices, where you have to join the Union if you want full-time work. So the non-Union workers would be temps or part-time people, hence the large wage differences. Those “jobs” can only be compared in current Right-To-Work states (for the time that they have been Right-To-Work states). But, if you want the numbers to look like the Unions are doing great things, then those are the numbers you should go with (sarcastic).


December 12th, 2012
1:20 pm

You can really get a warm & fuzzy feeling when you realize a man or woman union factory worker is making $37.50 an hour watching a machine put lug nuts on a tire…and the state of Tennessee’s teacher union (TEA) is really putting TN at the top of academic excellence in the US…yea, right!!

Jimmy Hoffa

December 12th, 2012
1:27 pm

Even if the statistic was true (and we know about stats, oh well), would you rather have a slightly lower paying job than no job? Ask the folks at Hostess, GM, Delta, etc.

It’s a fact that GM was spending more on healthcare per car, than steel per car.


December 12th, 2012
1:30 pm

I know one company where the union gets the same pay as non-union. Hostess!

Seriously, I question the source of those figures. If I were to believe the anti-union groups, then those union employees were making more than their non-union managers. If I were to believe the union supporters, then they were getting grossly underpaid fromt he get-go and these figures have no bearing on their poverty level.

I say; IF union members are getting a significantly increased payday over non-union workers, then what added benefits are those union workers bringing to their industry? If you merit it, then you should earn it, otherwise stop complaining.


December 12th, 2012
1:34 pm

Fantastic article.


Jane Marek

December 12th, 2012
1:35 pm

This story explains why the Republicans hate the unions!


December 12th, 2012
1:44 pm

People saying you should negotiate your pay independently are naïve. A single person is not match for a large corporation/employer. Employees are seen as expendable around the world. The reason companies have taken jobs overseas is because they can treat the workers like chattel. Concepts we take for granted like, Worker’s compensation, unemployment, safe working environment, anti discrimination, 40hr work week and overtime, and anti harassment laws are foreign concepts in developing countries. Unions are about sticking together to increase the living standards of the whole. A company can’t loose it’s entire workforce. But in right to work states, they can fire you at the drop of a dime for no cause and there is no remedy for unfair termination. This is why companies flocked to the south. But today, the companies are even greedier than ever. Georgia already has some of the lowest taxes in the nation and that’s not good enough. Companies want to pay NO taxes, and work people with our regard for personal wellbeing. We are no longer competing on an even playing field; we are competing with virtual slave labor in Asia. Union workers are not overpaid, non-union workers are UNDERPAID! Record breaking profits and companies in many circumstances refuse to grant even meager cost of living increases….and they blame the union…and not selfish greedy motives.

John Ellison

December 12th, 2012
2:05 pm

Unions are great! Without unions, where would Detroit be right now?


December 12th, 2012
2:27 pm

” These workers make a median of $973 a week, roughly $230 more than their non-union counterparts.”

Union workers should have their pay and benefits reduced to match non-union workers. It a matter of basic fairness and will promote equality in employment.


December 12th, 2012
2:29 pm

That must just work for other organizations because Government Union Employees make the same low wages as everyone else.


December 12th, 2012
2:31 pm

City of Atlanta Unions are a joke! You still get laid off when they decided to lay you off and there is no guarantee that you will get your job back. Your pay is still low just like everybody elses pay. Unions do not work period within City government.


December 12th, 2012
2:40 pm

People in New York make more money than people in Georgia.
1. Should we all move there?
2. Where is cost of living higher?
3. Does heavy unionization influence cost of living?

Obvious answers. Poorly written and very biased article.


December 12th, 2012
2:42 pm

Saw this in a WSJ article on whether RTW legislation helped or not……had to laugh, since it was pretty clear that, since OK passed their RTW legislation, their economy has grown significantly faster than other states. Of course, for some reason, the writer had a hard time figuring out that the RTW law might have been an actual cause of the growth….

“When Oklahoma passed its law in 2001, the average weekly wage of the state’s private-sector workers was $531, or 76% of the national average.

A decade later, private-sector workers in Oklahoma earned $772 a week, 84% of the national mark. But Oklahoma’s labor market over the past decade has generally been stronger than the nation’s as a whole, making it hard to pinpoint the law’s impact.”


December 12th, 2012
2:44 pm

As someone born and raised in Georgia, I can safely say…

Southerners in general are brain-washed to be anti-union. I’ve never really figured out why.

I see real value in unions. They protect the rights of workers. This does not just mean their pay. It also means their safety and health. Textile unions prevented companys from forcing their hourly workers from very harsh conditions that later proved to cause cancer. Those textile companys did not care if their employees were exposed to carcinogins (cancer causing agents) as long as their equipment was cleaned.

Teacher unions not only protect their members, but also pride themselves in protecting the students. Teacher unions (and we have none in Georgia, by the way) regularly insist on reviewing the school system budget to prevent waste and to ensure that the tax money is actually spent in the classroom to help the student. In Georgia, there is no such oversight – and the results are school systems with top heavy central offices, etc.

I am not sure that the people in Georgia will ever be un-brainwashed regarding unions….


December 12th, 2012
2:49 pm

Not sure anyone needs to brainwash anyone else on this…..the egregious examples pretty much take care of that themselves i.e. the chrysler workers….seriously? caught drinking on the job – oops, i mean on the clock, since they were supposed to be working but weren’t, and their union wins reinstatement. And this is by no means the only example….they abound daily in the news.

That kind of stuff makes no sense at all to the average person, who believes someone who isn’t getting the job done deserves to be fired, and realizes that it’s the other employees who are working who pay the real price for these folks.


December 12th, 2012
2:55 pm

@dc -

Okay. I might agree that when a state such as OK basically “kicks out” unions, their economic numbers intially grown.

But only a republican would stop there and point to that statistic and draw a conclusion. One needs to look deeper to understand.

In OK, companys have expanded their operations and some new companys have opened in OK. Why? Because now they can freely take advantage of their employees.

They can demand for them to work through lunch without pay. They can give them additional work loads which may even require the employee to work over the weekend without compensation. Cannot you see how this increases the companys profits?

The companys can also fire an employee for any reason at all. No justification is needed. This means that a loyal employee of 10 years can be fired so that the company can hire a fresh college graduate – about a 50% savings. Cannot you see how this increases the companys profits?

The wording “Right to Work State” is very misleading and is typical of republican word twisting. In reality, it should be “Right to Abuse Workers State”.


December 12th, 2012
2:58 pm

@dc -

You are a typical republican. You point to an example and use that as justification to throw out an entire concept.

Are there bad parts to some unions? Of course. But they most certainly have a good purpose that is desperately needed.

uh, reality...

December 12th, 2012
3:06 pm

ALL salaried employees are required to work whatever hour an employer requires WITHOUT overtime pay – that is a part of life – and, no, no employer can require an hourly paid worker to work through lunch without pay – you are just spewing rhetoric, sort of like your “saviour”, Obuma – hence, only a Dumbocrat would argue such non-sense – and I was one of those who was “fired” for no reason at all other than that AIG no longer needed me after 8 years, and at age 58 I had no recourse, and still no job after 2 years, but hey, life is a beotch, then you die.

But it is their right to do that, and I do not begrudge them that – capitalism is great, and guvmint handouts to the union thugs is just wrong, as is Obuma’s attempts to increase thugism by creating more unions – congrats to WI and MI for seeing the light and letting people decide for themselves whether they want to join the union…

So, Reality...

December 12th, 2012
3:12 pm

…are you a union member? If so, I believe you have been “brainwashed” in the ways of unionism, just as you say “southerners” have been brainwashed in anti-unionism – the reality is that unions served a purpose in the past, and employers have learned, so that all unions do now is increase prices artificially, forcing jobs out of the US in order for goods to be affordable for all, especially the moochers – moochers certainly cannot afford to buy “made in America” – those goods just cost too dang much…


December 12th, 2012
3:16 pm

@dc How come they never follow the managers out of the plant to the bar and catch them drinking during lunch ? Cause managers NEVER do that kind of thing. Yeah right.


December 12th, 2012
3:29 pm

There used to be a time for unions. Now with all the laws in place to protect the workers unions are out dated.

The leaders at the top are just like corporate executives. Greed driven. They don’t care about their fellow employees but instead how much they can stick it to the man and for personal gain.

Lastly,I personally do not care for their thug like approach when anyone should challenge their sacred cow.

One last thing. If I am a conservative and I am forced to pay union fees, my money is going to assist the democrats in getting hired.

Lord help our country because after another four years, we’re done.


December 12th, 2012
3:49 pm

meanwhile the average OK worker’s wages have gone from 76% of US average (while under “must join” union rules) to 84% of US average after RTW passed…. I suspect the OK workers are very happy with this arrangement. Of course, that’s really not the focus, is it…..because (see below)

the Union bosses…probably not so happy, with their “forced membership gravy train” gone….I get that. And their main supporters, the Democrat party, losing their largest funding source. Thus the vitriol from them, and their supporters.

Hard to argue w/ actual numbers….who am I kidding, the brainwashed ones will argue until they are blue in the face, and then of course resort to name calling……and I thought that went out in 2nd grade.

Fed Challenge

December 12th, 2012
4:04 pm

I work for a US Gov’t agency and supervise both union and non-union employees. I want to see how they came up with their differnce in pay between them. Those I manage and others I know about make the same salary, have the same health benefits, etc. Even negaotated topics such as overtime pay are the same for both groups. Unions in the Federal Government many times operate differently than the civilian sector. They cannot strike so that does provide some leverage when negotating contracts unless, like in my organization, you have a bunch of weak managers.


December 12th, 2012
4:08 pm

Unions have as much value today as manual typewriters…just sayin.


December 12th, 2012
4:51 pm

Q-how many times do you drive through a road construction site where you see one union worker actually working and 9 other standing around smoking?

A-every single time

The Unmutable law of Economics

December 12th, 2012
5:05 pm

How are Teachers, Police, and Firefighters not government employees? I am pretty sure there are nearly NO union folks among the private sector companies that provide these services. You cannot maintain a monopoly provision of services that is funded by theft from the general public (taxes) and also engage in protected collective bargaining. You might as well just put a gun in their hands and let them go steal the money directly.

Better pay does not equal a better quality product. The fact that government employees are overly represented in this category only serves to support that fact. When quality is demanded, businesses need the ability to reward hard-working employees and to fire slackers. Unions prevent this and hard-working employees know that. Union membership is down as a direct result in the private sector.


December 12th, 2012
10:23 pm

This is nonsense. I’m a unionized professional, and my pay is nowhere near my counterparts in private practice. This statement is based either in poorly-managed data, myth, or just an out-and-out lie.


December 13th, 2012
2:47 am

Union dues usually are equal to approx. one and one half hours pay every pay period…if you get paid bi-weekly.


December 13th, 2012
3:03 am

Federal and State governments subsidize many large corporations like Wal-Mart, and other low-wage paying companies. While major companies pay minimum wages, their low paid workers will qualify for Food Stamps, Child Care subsidies, Medicare/Medicaid, etc. This all is paid for with OUR taxes. If these companies had a unionized workforce, and had to pay union wages, this tax money could be used to keep the Federal budget under control.


December 13th, 2012
3:09 am

“Joe”…How many times do you watch a football game and only see 11 men (per team) working at a time? There are another 34 sitting on the sideline, watching. Many times workers have to wait for part of a job to be completed before they can do their part. You cannot have concrete poured on a bridge before the pile driver operator has finished, the welders finish, and the framers finish first.