Charts of the Day: Being in a union raises a woman’s pay by 12.9 percent

chart of health insurance advantage of union membership by education level

Hey ladies, you may need a PhD to earn as much as a dude with a BA, but being in a union could be worth a year of college in terms of a wage boost. According to a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, unionization has a big impact on women’s economic well-being. 

Unionized women workers on average make 12.9 percent more than their non-union counterparts, are 36.8 percent more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and 53.4 percent more likely to have participated in an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

ThinkProgress points out that the increase in women’s wages from being in a union is about a quarter of the increase that a college degree gives you. And the benefits of unionization are particularly strong for women with lower levels of education. As the chart above shows, women without a high school diploma are 104 percent more likely to get health insurance in they’re in a union. “In fact,” CEPR reports, “for a woman with a high school degree, being in or represented by a union raises her likelihood of having health insurance or a retirement plan by more than earning a four-year college degree would.”

And while women are now close to making up their fair share of unions, union membership overall has fallen off over the last decades. And that’s bad for everyone.

unionization rate for men and women over time

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

Read more about Maya

Join the Conversation

Union Workers Protest 'Right To Work' Amendment

Supreme Court Case Threatens Unions and Women of Color

On Monday, the Supreme Court heard arguments for Janus v. AFSCME, a case that could disrupt the financial sustainability of union organizing in at least 22 states.

Mark Janus, the plaintiff of Monday’s case, wants the Supreme Court to undo a forty-year precedent decided in the 1977 ruling of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education which permits state and local government to require non-union public employees to pay partial fees to support the administrative costs of the union representing workers to their collective employer. The goal of these “fair-share” fees is to prevent non-union employees from free-riding off the benefits of ...

On Monday, the Supreme Court heard arguments for Janus v. AFSCME, a case that could disrupt the financial sustainability of union organizing in at least 22 statesRead More