Trade unions helped keep workers’ jobs and wages during the pandemic

Trade unions helped keep workers’ jobs and wages during the pandemic

In the new EPI white paper, I’m reviewing data on how union workers fared compared to their non-union counterparts during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. The country-representative data allows me to draw several important conclusions about what unions have been able to do for the workers they represent as the country confronts COVID-19.

First, unions helped keep workers paid. In particular, union workers—both union members and non-members covered by a collective bargaining agreement—were more likely than non-union members to be paid during periods when their jobs were not open for business. Even after controlling for a wide range of worker characteristics, such as industry, occupation, education, age, gender, race and ethnicity, marital status, state of residence, and others, union workers are 10 percentage points more likely than non-union workers to have been paid by their employers for hours not worked due to pandemic closures or loss of business during the pandemic.

Secondly, unions saved jobs. I estimate that job losses were 2,000 fewer jobs per month for union members than for non-union members during the first six months of the pandemic, when the economy was hit hardest. Even as the economy began to recover over the next 16 months, the unions continued to retain an average of 1,700 jobs per month. In the 22 months I analyzed in my article, unions saved just over 40,000 jobs compared to what happened to non-union workers.

Thirdly, the union wage increase remained. The union weekly wage premium — 7%, by which union workers’ weekly earnings exceeded that of comparable non-union workers — has remained unchanged throughout the pandemic. The pandemic has hit all workers hard, but has not diminished the relative position of union workers.

Additional findings and a full discussion of the methodology used are available. gentlemen.