UMass Boston

UMass Boston Study Confirms Benefits of Unions

03/31/2020| Elis Mullins

A recent research report titled “The Union Effect in Massachusetts,” part of a new series called Massachusetts Labor Matters, has been published by the Labor Resource Center (LRC) and the Department of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Boston. The series, sponsored by the Future of Work Initiative, explores labor and working-class life in the state of Massachusetts between 2010 and 2017.

Illustration of workers holding up protest signs at a rally

“ Unions increase wages, and increased wages help working families and the state of Massachusetts in many ways. ”

Written by professors of economics Randy Albelda and Michael Carr, and Brian Fitzpatrick ’19, who graduated with an MA in economics from UMass Boston, the inaugural issue analyzes the “union wage effect,” or the difference between the wages, earnings, and benefits in union and non-union jobs. 

“There is a reason our forefathers fought for the unions throughout the 20th century,” noted Interim Chancellor Katherine Newman. “They recognized what UMass Boston experts have now documented with certainty, that union labor provides steady work at high wages and benefits that keep families secure.”
The study began to take shape through a collaboration between the Department of Economics and the LRC: both were interested in the impact of unions from the individual worker to the state level. They wanted to know how higher union wages would contribute to the state’s economy. 

After a year of study, they found that union workers earned more than their non-union counterparts and were less likely to live in a low-income family. They were also more likely to have a work-based health insurance plan or retirement/pension plan and less likely to be enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP or to need public assistance. This reduces the financial burden on the Commonwealth, freeing up resources for other projects. 
“Higher rates of unionization will serve to redistribute wealth more equitably and provide workers with a greater degree of security,” said Steve Striffler, director of the Labor Resource Center at UMass Boston. “Unions increase wages, and increased wages help working families and the state of Massachusetts in many ways. Unions do a better job of redistributing wealth more equitably that any government program, and keep people from needing state assistance.”
The next issue will examine the type and amount of work that people aged 18-34 do, as well as the obstacles they face. Massachusetts Labor Matters expects to release it in the fall. 

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