Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez recently published a blog post painting a very rosy picture of union membership. He cited data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to support his conclusion that the median weekly earnings for union workers last year were $200 a week more than for non-union workers. This “fact” seems to be an undeniable reason to favor unionization, but this statistic is a misleading oversimplification of the data.
Perez compares median weekly earnings for union members with non-union members. This comparison is misleading because union members are more concentrated in higher-paying government-sector jobs, including teachers and federal employees. Additionally, unionized workers are more heavily concentrated in urban and northeast regions, where the costs of labor and costs of living are higher. Unionized workers also tend to be older than non-unionized workers, and older workers make more than younger workers.
Like the National Labor Relations Board, the Labor Department is concerned with declining rates of union membership. The Board has reacted by changing well-settled law to favor unions while the Department of Labor attempts to influence unionization with over-simplified, misleading claims. It appears that the government’s pro-union marketing and changing laws to benefit unions is paying off – unionization is beginning to increase. More elections are being held, and unions are winning at a higher rate than previously reported.
Matt Austin is a lawyer based in the Columbus, Ohio office of Roetzel & Andress, LPA who limits his practice to representing employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at (614) 723-2010 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.