Skip to content Skip to footer

Unions Boost Women’s Earnings, Benefits, and Workplace Flexibility

Over the past four decades, women have played increasingly important roles as breadwinners in their families. At the same time, women’s share of unpaid care work and housework has remained high.

Washington, DC – Over the past four decades, women have played increasingly important roles as breadwinners in their families. At the same time, women’s share of unpaid care work and housework has remained high. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), “Women, Working Families, and Unions,” explores the role unions play in addressing the challenges facing working women and families in balancing their work and family responsibilities. The paper looks at trends in unionization for women; the impact of unions on wages, benefits and access to family and medical leave; and the role of unions in addressing work-life balance issues.

“There are few other interventions known to improve the prospects for better pay, benefits and workplace flexibility as much as unions do. Anyone who cares about the well-being of women workers and working families should also care about unions,” states Nicole Woo, a co-author of the report.

The report finds that unions increase access to benefits that help working families succeed in this economy. Women in unions are 36 percent more likely to receive health insurance benefits through their jobs and 53 percent more likely to participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

Unions also support working Americans when they need time off to care for themselves or their families. Union workplaces are 16 percent more likely to allow medical leave and 21 percent more likely to offer paid sick leave. Companies with unionized employees are also 22 percent more likely to allow parental leave, 12 percent more likely to offer pregnancy leave, and 19 percent more likely to let their workers take time off to care for sick family members.

One out of nine women in the United States are represented by unions. They make up almost half of the union workforce and are on track to be the majority by 2025. The report also analyses the demographics of women in unions, including the shares of black, Latino, white, and Asian and Pacific Islander women, educational attainment, age, occupations, and states of residence.

On average, women in unions earn 13 percent more per hour – about $2.50 – than their non-union counterparts, all else being equal. This advantage holds even for low-wage jobs such as hotel cleaners, office cleaners, child-care workers, and health aides. The report discusses how unionization helps reduce the gender pay gap as well. This report’s findings indicate that union coverage gives a significant boost to women’s pay, benefits, and workplace flexibility as well as demonstrate how unions can play a central role in helping workplaces meet the needs of 21st century working families. As the share of women in unions continues to grow, the importance of unions in addressing work-family issues grows, too.

​​Not everyone can pay for the news. But if you can, we need your support.

Truthout is widely read among people with lower ­incomes and among young people who are mired in debt. Our site is read at public libraries, among people without internet access of their own. People print out our articles and send them to family members in prison — we receive letters from behind bars regularly thanking us for our coverage. Our stories are emailed and shared around communities, sparking grassroots mobilization.

We’re committed to keeping all Truthout articles free and available to the public. But in order to do that, we need those who can afford to contribute to our work to do so — especially now, because we only have hours left to raise over $9,000 in critical funds.

We’ll never require you to give, but we can ask you from the bottom of our hearts: Will you donate what you can, so we can continue providing journalism in the service of justice and truth?