In honor of Women’s Equality Day, recognizing the certification of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) released a new report on women in unions. The report found that women in unions earn more than women who are not in a union in every state including West Virginia.
Women have been growing as a share of total union members in the past three decades, from 33.4% of union members in 1984 to 45.5% in 2014. In West Virginia, women make up 41.9% of union membership. Overall 11.7% of working women are members of a union in West Virginia, compared to 11.9% nationwide.
Union membership tends to result in higher wages and improved benefits, particularly for middle- and low-wage earners, many of whom are women. According to the IWPR study, nationwide, women represented by labor unions earn an average of $212, or 30.9%, more per week than women in nonunion jobs. The union advantage for women is smaller, but still significant when controlling for age, education, and industry. In West Virginia, women in unions earn $176, or 29% more per week than nonunionized women.
West Virginia was one of 32 states where the size of the union-wage advantage was enough to cover the costs of full-time child care for an infant. The report also found women who are labor union members are more likely to participate in a pension plan, and more likely to receive health insurance benefits through their job than women who are not union members.
The report acknowledges that while unionized women enjoy a number of advantages, inequality in the workforce does not disappear for them. The report suggests a number of policies to support working women, including opposing “right to work” laws, increasing the minimum and tipped minimum wages, increasing the overtime threshold, expanding access to affordable and quality childcare, and enacting paid family and sick leave policies.
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