09 January 2016

Unions matter for families

This Post and Courier article by David Wren is from September of last year, but it is worth reading (or re-reading) all the same. Labour unions do not just confer benefits on their members; they benefit their members’ children. As Wren writes:
According to the study, children of noncollege-educated fathers earn 28 percent more as adults if their father was in a labor union. They also attain higher education levels than their nonunion counterparts.

Just a 10 percent increase in an area’s labor union membership is associated with a 1.3 percentage point increase in the ability of a low-income child from that area to reach the top 20 percent of wage earners as an adult. The percentage increase is 4.5 percent for children in all income levels.

Previous studies have shown five factors strongly associated with upward mobility in children, including an area’s: rate of single motherhood; high school dropout rate; degree of income inequality; degree of residential segregation; and social capital, such as participation in community organizations.

Single motherhood is, by far, the strongest factor associated with a lack of upward mobility for low-income children, researchers say. Union membership is about equal to the other four previously studied factors.

The presence of unions also can benefit the upward mobility of children in nonunion households, says the study.
Dr. Frank Tannenbaum, the Austrian immigrant Wobbly firebrand turned conservative historian at Columbia University, said it already. In an industrial society characterised by the concentrated ownership of capital and the insecurity of labour, labour unions are vital to the cohesion of society, even at its most basic and intimate foundations. If you are a concerned about conserving the social order, and concerned about the breakdown of the family unit, particularly in working-class America, the single most important battle is to keep up the fight for the rights of working members of families to collective bargaining arrangements. Those rights, at the moment, are under legal attack, and the ease with which labour unions can conduct their business is likely to be further constrained by the Supreme Court. Those who want to conserve the family need to stand up strongly on the side of the unions.


  1. You might also consider the study on union membership and family formation :

  2. Thank you, Kurt! I shall indeed give it a read!