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Latinos are the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S. work force. At the end of the 1970s, less than five percent of U.S. workers were Latinos; by 2007, Latinos had grown to 14 percent of the American work force.
Latinos are also the fastest growing group in the U.S. labor movement. In 1983 (the earliest year for which comparable data are available), Latinos accounted for 6 percent of unionized workers; by 2007, they were almost 12 percent of the union work force.
A recent paper published by the Center for Economic and Policy Research examines the impact of unionization on the pay and benefits of Latino workers. The most recent data suggest that even after controlling for differences between union and non-union workers –including such factors as age and education level– unionization substantially improves the pay and benefits received by Latino workers.
On average, unionization raised Latino workers’ wages 17.6 percent –or about $2.60 per hour– relative to Latino workers with similar characteristics who were not in unions. The union impact on health insurance and pension coverage was even larger. Latino workers who were in unions were about 26 percentage points more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and about 27 percentage points more likely to have a pension plan than similar non-union workers.
The benefits of unionization were also high for Latino workers in typically low-wage occupations. Latino workers in unions in otherwise low-wage occupations earned, on average, 16.6 percent more than their non-union counterparts. Unionized Latino workers in low-wage occupations were also 41percentage points more likely than comparable non-union workers to have employer-provided health insurance, and 18 percentage points more likely to have a pension plan.
The findings demonstrate that Latino workers who are able to bargain collectively earn more and are more likely to have benefits associated with good jobs. The data, therefore, suggest that better protection of workers’ right to unionize would have a substantial positive impact on the pay and benefits of Latino workers.
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Source: The Center for Economic and Policy Research