America’s 15.3 million union members represent a cross section of people — women and men of all ages, races and ethnic groups. They work in hospitals and nursing homes, auto assembly plants and on construction sites, trains, buses, and airplanes. They are security guards, engineers, office workers, musicians, electricians, postal workers, janitors, and more.
Union membership is important to all of these people, helping them gain decent wages and working conditions and to have a say in their jobs.
A collection of fast facts posted at the national AFL-CIO website answers basic questions about unions — how many workers are members, what jobs they do and how much they are paid — and shows some of the advantages of union membership.
Why do I need a union?
Simply talking about issues that affect public service employees isn’t enough. To make a difference, our voices must be heard. And we can be heard only when we organize as a union and gain the strength to make real change. Together, our collective voice is heard — on the job and in state legislatures and city halls.
Do union workers get higher wages?
Yes.1 Workers who are union members earn 30 percent more than non-union workers. Union wages are even greater for women and people of color. Women and African Americans represented by unions earn over 33 percent more than their non-union counterparts. And Latino workers with the union advantage make over 46 percent more than those not represented by a union.
Do union workers get better benefits?
Yes.2 Union workers are more likely than their non-union counterparts to receive health care and pension benefits. More than eight out of ten union members are covered by health insurance and have a pension plan — versus fewer than half of those not in a union.
Why do I need a union now?
Big corporations and anti-worker politicians are attacking public employees and the services we provide. Their goal is simple: privatize our jobs, strip us of our rights and dismantle the public sector. They’re going after our wages, our pensions and our health care. And in 2005, newly elected governors in Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri took away the bargaining rights of all state employees. This can happen anywhere.
In Washington, D.C., and in state capitols across the country, it’s the same old thing: politicians side with the rich and powerful, and neglect the needs of middle-class families.
Whether you are a public employee or work for a private company providing public services, we have to act now to stop the right-wing rush to lower our wages and benefits and eliminate our rights. That’s why building a strong union is so important now.
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, Median Weekly Earnings of Full-time Wage and Salary Workers by Union Affiliation, January 2007.
Local 88 Membership Cards
If you want to confirm your membership and look up your number or receive a replacement card, just call the AFSCME main number and ask for “Member Services”: 202-429-1000.
Little-Known Fact: Union Member of the Century!
Albert Einstein, Time magazine’s “Person of the 20th Century” was a visionary scientist, philosopher, teacher — and a union member. In fact, he was a founding member of the Princeton Federation of Teachers Local 552, signing its charter in 1938.