New Research Finds Union Workers Make Nearly $1 Million More Than Non-Union Workers

Cornell Header 10.27.22

Being a union member pays off – to the tune of nearly $1 million throughout a worker’s career.

A new paper in Cornell University’s ILR Review found that workers who spend their entire career in a labor union earn $1.3 million more than non-union workers. Union workers without college degrees who remain in unionized roles during the life of their careers are expected to earn more than non-union workers with a college degree.

Researchers tracked the income of male workers, starting in the 1960s and through their retirement, and their status as union members. They found that non-union workers earned an estimated $2.1 million throughout their careers, while union workers earned a projected $3.4 million.

This research supports what union members have been saying for decades: collective bargaining gives workers the pay and respect they deserve. As income inequality grows and more wealth becomes concentrated in the hands of the top 10% of earners, unions play an essential role in closing the wealth gap.

Joe Iosbaker began working at the University of Illinois – Chicago in 1990 until his retirement in 2021. Throughout his nearly three decades of service to the university, Joe saw firsthand how being a union member led to higher wages and more step increases for his coworkers.

“When I started working at UIC, I made less than $17,000 a year, typical for clerical titles. Over the 32 years I worked there, we stood together in collective bargaining, and I retired with a salary more than three times above what I started. Being in a strong union makes home ownership and raising healthy families possible for working people.”