AFGE EPA Council Signs Landmark Agreements with EPA to Expand Telework, Have More Flexible Work Schedules
December 06, 2021
At the EPA, the future is telework.
Unions are a cornerstone of our democracy and our middle class. Unions are more important now than ever in light of an all-out war against the labor movement – whether it’s right-to-work-for-less laws, Janus, or other Supreme Court rulings that helped advance corporate interests.
The all-out war on unions was born out of business interests’ fear and greed: unionized workers have bargaining power to negotiate for better wages, health care, retirement, working conditions – basically a better life.
The Economic Policy Institute did a study detailing unions’ role in helping workers and the economy. It clearly shows why being a union member should be one of everyone’s career goals and why you should get your co-workers to join our union. When we join together, we win!
1. Union workers earn more than nonunion members
Unionized workers earn 13.2% more than nonunionized workers. Years of studies have shown similar results. In 2017, for example, union members had median weekly earnings of $1,041, compared to $829 for non-union members, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
2. Unions bring living wages to low-wage jobs
After unionizing, 5,300 janitors in Houston got a 47% pay raise as a result of their first-ever union contract in 2006. Unionized dishwashers in Las Vegas made $4 more than the national average with excellent benefits.
3. Unions help raise the minimum wage
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has been instrumental in the Fight for $15 campaign to raise the federal minimum wage. The current federal minimum wage is merely $7.25 an hour, too low to keep working families out of poverty. As a result of the Fight for $15 campaign, New York, Chicago, California, the District of Columbia, and 21 cities and counties have passed laws establishing $15 minimum wages.
4. Union members are less likely to be victims of wage theft
Because union members are more knowledgeable about their rights, they are half as likely to be the victims of minimum wage violations, according to the Economic Policy Institute. This kind of wage theft costs workers $15 billion a year.
5. Unions raise wages for both union members and non-union members
When the Services Trade Council Union and Disney World reached an agreement to increase wages for union members to at least $10 an hour, for example, Disney extended the raises to all its 70,000 Orlando employees including nonunion members. That prompted other employers in Orlando’s hospitality and retail sector including Westgate Resorts to raise wages.
6. Unions help raise wages for women
Unionized women earn about 9.2% more than nonunionized women.
7. Unions help close racial wage gaps
Black workers are more likely to join a union than their white counterparts. This helps lift wages for black union workers closer to those of their white counterparts. Black workers who are union members also earn more than nonunionized black workers. In New York City, unionized black construction workers make 36.1% more than nonunionized black construction workers.
8. Union members are more likely to have retirement security
A secure retirement is one of the main reasons people join a union. Workers want to be able to retire without financial worries after decades of hard work. A secure retirement is a prized benefit for union members.
9. Unions make the workplace safer
Unions are champions of safe workplaces. We work with employers to improve safety measures and educate employees on how to avoid injuries on the job. As a result, unionized workplaces are safer than nonunionized ones.
In 2014, for example, OSHA inspected construction sites in New York and found twice as many health and safety violations at nonunion construction sites as at union construction sites. Union mines are safer – mine workers there are less likely to be injured or die on the job. Unions ensure employers are held accountable when deaths or injuries happen.
10. Unions make our democracy stronger
Unions allow working people who are not executives or company owners to have a voice in workplace policies that affect their lives and families.
11. Union members have better protections against abuses in the workplace
While non-union members are subject to the whims of their managers, union members are protected by a union contract that ensures fair treatment for everyone. There are also procedures and protections in place for filing complaints against bad managers.
12. Unionized workers are more likely to have health insurance
More than 9 in 10 – 94% – of unionized workers have access to employer-sponsored health benefits, compared with 67% nonunionized workers. Union employers also pay 77.4% more per hour toward their employees’ coverage.
13. Unionized workers are more likely to have retirement security
Nearly half of American families have no retirement account savings. One of the main reasons is that employers have shifted from a guaranteed defined-benefit pensions to 401(k) or similar plans, which force workers to bear investment risks. The shift has widened income inequality and benefited only the rich. Union members are more likely to have retirement benefits. Their benefits are also likely to be better because they are more likely to have pensions and employer contributions to the plan.
At the EPA, the future is telework.
This is the final segment of AFGE’s 4-part series: The Road to Title 5: TSA Officers’ Fight for Dignity on the Job Changed TSA.
AFGE is working with coalition partners to prevent the closure of an EPA laboratory in Houston.