UA Local 7
18 Avis Dr
Latham, NY 12110
P (518) 785-9808
F (518) 785-9855

The Role of the Labor Union in Modern Society

Welcome to the site of Plumbers and Steamfitters of UA Local 7! Whether you are an apprentice, long-time member, an un-affiliated journeyman in search of work, or a member of our vibrant community, we thought you would enjoy the following blog post about the benefits and role of union members in modern American society. There is a tendency these days in some circles to deride  collecitve bargaining and workers organizing for better pay and benefits as a "thing of the past." The following post describes a different view, from a family member of an older, retired Plumber who worked hard to build this country. We at Plumbers Local 7 feel that every working New Yorker is entitled to the economic rights and privilegs described below. FDR himself voiced these concerns and urged a "Second Bill of Economic Rights." Unions are more necessary now than ever. Enjoy the post, which comes to us courtesy of Glen Brown, a teacher, poet, and musician whose blog may be found here.

Unions struggled to eliminate abuses of early industrial society and improve workers’ lives by seeking higher wages and better working conditions for their members… [They] became an integral part of industrial society because they did not seek to destroy capitalism but, rather, to make employers more responsive to their employees’ needs and interests…” (from Jerry H. Bentley and Herbert F. Ziegler, Traditions & Encounters).
·        Unions raise wages of unionized workers by roughly 20% and raise compensation, including both wages and benefits, by about 28%.
·       Unions reduce wage inequality because they raise wages more for low-and-middle-wage workers than for higher-wage workers, more for blue-collar than for white-collar workers, and more for workers who do not have a college degree.
·       Strong unions set a pay standard that nonunion employers follow. For example, a high school graduate whose workplace is not unionized but whose industry is 25% unionized is paid 5% more than similar workers in less unionized industries.
·       The impact of unions on total nonunion wages is almost as large as the impact on total union wages.


The most sweeping advantage for unionized workers is in fringe benefits. Unionized workers are more likely than their nonunionized counterparts to receive paid leave, are approximately 18% to 28% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance, and are 23% to 54% more likely to be in employer-provided pension plans.

·       Unionized workers receive more generous health benefits than nonunionized workers. They also pay 18% lower health care deductibles and a smaller share of the costs for family coverage. In retirement, unionized workers are 24% more likely to be covered by health insurance paid for by their employer.
·       Unionized workers receive better pension plans. Not only are they more likely to have a guaranteed benefit in retirement, their employers contribute 28% more toward pensions.
·       Unionized workers receive 26% more vacation time and 14% more total paid leave (vacations and holidays).
      Unions play a pivotal role both in securing legislated labor protections and rights such as safety and health, overtime, and family/medical leave and in enforcing those rights on the job. Because unionized workers are more informed, they are more likely to benefit from social insurance programs such as unemployment insurance and workers compensation. Unions are, thus, an intermediary institution that provides a necessary complement to legislated benefits and protections (Data are from the Economic Policy Institute).

Also watch "Unions are in Peril":