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Women in Unions

About Women in Unions

Women’s union membership has been increasing, with more than half of some unions’ membership being women. A recent IWPR report on job retention and mobility of low-income mothers found that women who are union members are also more likely to remain in their occupation. Union membership has also been linked to higher wages, increased access to and participation in employer-provided pension plans, and subsidization or complete coverage of health insurance premium by one’s employer. However, women’s representation in union leadership is still disproportionately low, even in those unions in which women make up the majority of the membership.

With the goal of informing policy on the issues of social programs, economic security, and the work environment for women, IWPR researches women’s leadership in unions as well as the impact of unionization on employment, income, and benefits overall and in different industries. IWPR’s recent and current work on women and unions provide analyses of labor markets for the communications and retail food industries, and guidelines for promoting women’s leadership in unions.

Resources

The Next Generation: A Handbook for Mentoring Future Union Leaders (April 2012)

I Knew I Could Do This Work: Seven Strategies That Promote Women's Activism and Leadership in Unions (2007)

Solving the Nursing Shortage through Higher Wages (2006)

Visit our external resources page for links to more information on this topic.

Latest Reports from IWPR

Women in Construction and the Economic Recovery: Results from 2013 IWPR Tradeswomen Survey
by Ariane Hegewisch and Brigid O'Farrell (August 2014)

This research-in-brief draws on the 2013 IWPR Tradeswomen Survey, an exploratory survey on the opportunities and challenges for women working in construction trades. The survey yielded responses from 219 U.S.-based tradeswomen from 33 states and presents a mixed picture for women in construction. While many respondents are earning good wages, unemployment and underemployment are still high. The majority of respondents report that they feel largely treated equally to men, yet far too many report unequal treatment in hiring, training, assignments, and promotions. Three in ten respondents report high levels of harassment. Fewer than five respondents in total reported having learned about opportunities in the trades through school or career counselors. These findings suggest that contractors, labor unions, and the government are failing to recruit, train, and ensure a safe workplace free of harassment for many women.

 

The Next Generation: A Handbook for Mentoring Future Union Leaders
by The Institute for Women's Policy Research and The Berger-Marks Foundation (April 2012)

This handbook provides an overview of how to mentor union members or staff. It draws on literature on mentoring in unions and other settings as well as interviews with ten individuals who have mentored or been mentored in unions. The handbook is intended primarily for union leaders and for those who want to develop union members and staff to keep unions strong. Much of the information the handbook contains, however, is applicable to any not-for-profit organization.

#C391, Report, 78 pages
$20.00
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Preview not available

The Next Generation: A Handbook for Mentoring Future Union Leaders
by Cynthia Hess (April 2012)

 

The Union Advantage in Wireline Telecommunications for African-Americans, Hispanics, and Women
by Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D. and Jeffrey Hayes, Ph.D. (August 2011)

 

I Knew I Could Do This Work: Seven Strategies That Promote Women’s Activism and Leadership in Unions (Participant Handout)
by Michelle Kaminski, Ph.D. (December 2007)

This guide will help union facilitators lead a discussion group about how to promote women’s leadership in their unions. It is based on the report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research

 

I Knew I Could Do This Work: Seven Strategies that Promote Women’s Activism and Leadership in Unions (Discussion Guide)
by Michelle Kaminski, Ph.D. (December 2007)

This guide will help union facilitators lead a discussion group about how to promote women’s leadership in their unions. It is based on the report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

 

Seven Strategies That Promote Women’s Activism and Leadership in Unions
by Amy Caiazza, Ph.D., and Casey Clevenger (December 2007)

This Research-in-Brief summarizes the findings of a larger report, I Knew I Could Do This Work: Seven Strategies That Promote Women’s Activism and Leadership in Unions.

I918, Research-In-Brief, 4 pages
$5.00
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I Knew I Could Do This Work: Seven Strategies That Promote Women’s Activism and Leadership in Unions
by Amy Caiazza, Ph.D. (December 2007)

Women are an increasing proportion of union membership, thanks to their higher labor force participation and growing unionization in the jobs they dominate, such as nursing, teaching, and clerical jobs. As of 2004, 11 percent of female and 14 percent of male workers were unionized; in all, 44 percent of union members are women. Although women are still a minority of the unionized workforce, the majority of new workers organized over the past two decades has been women, and soon women will be the majority of union members. In some unions, women already are the majority. For example, as of 2000, women are 60 percent of the American Federation of Teachers. They are 52 percent of members of the America Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), 50 percent of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and 51 percent of Communications Workers of America.

I917, 56 pages
$10.00
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Making the Right Call: Jobs and Diversity in the Communications and Media Sector
by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D., Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., and Jessica Koski (July 2006)

The Communications and Media Sector is at the forefront of the 21st century economy. Employing more than 3 million Americans, activity in this sector fuels cultural, economic, social, and political evolution. New technologies, corporate restructuring, and regulatory change precipitated by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 are driving rapid change in these industries, causing major shifts in employment patterns. How do these changes affect women and workers of color, who have historically found good jobs and a path to the middle-class in Communications and Media, through representation by labor unions? This report aims to shed light on this question by analyzing employment in the seven largest Communications and Media industries: Wired Telecommunications, Radio/TV/Cable Broadcasting, Wireless Telecommunications, Newspaper Publishing, Motion Pictures/Video Production, Internet Service Providers (ISP), and Other Information Services

#C364, Report, 54 pages
$10.00
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Solving the Nursing Shortage through Higher Wages
by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (March 2006)

Every year, our hospitals need more registered nurses. Between 2004 and 2014, more than 1.2 million nursing positions will become open, either to meet the growing demand for medical care or to replace nurses who retire or leave the field. Hospital administrators are voicing concerns about a nurse shortage—some are even declaring a crisis in nurse staffing. Nurses themselves are increasingly worried about the impact of understaffing on the quality of patient care. How are nurses' unions addressing these issues?

C363, Report, 37 pages
$10.00
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The Benefits of Unionization for Workers in the Retail Food Industry
by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D., and Eliane Kim (February 2002)

This Research-in-Brief summarizes the findings of an analysis of the benefits of unionization in the retail food industry conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). Using data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a dataset collected monthly by the federal government, this project compared the wages and benefits of unionized and nonunionized workers in the retail food industry, particularly for women, single mothers, cashiers, part-time workers, and part-time women workers.1 The project also suggests policy changes, summarized here, that would allow more women workers to experience the advantages of unionization.

#C351, Research-in-Brief, 7 pages
$5.00
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The Benefits of Unionization for Workers in the Retail Food Industry
by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D., Xue Song, Ph.D., and April Shaw (January 2002)

Economic changes in the last decade generally have brought low unemployment and increased productivity, but they have done little to improve workers’ wages. Research has established that labor unions can increase workers’ economic well-being and security. This study investigates the extent to which the benefits of unionization accrue to workers in the retail food industry, one of many industries that are facing new cost-cutting pressures in the globalized economy.

#C352, Report, 38 pages
$10.00
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The Benefits of Unionization for Workers in the Retail Food Industry
by Vicky Lovell, PhD, Xue Song, PhD, and April Shaw (December 2001)

Economic changes in the last decade generally have brought low unemployment and increased productivity, but they have done little to improve workers’ wages. Research has established that labor unions can increase workers’ economic well-being and security. This study investigates the extent to which the benefits of unionization accrue to workers in the retail food industry, one of many industries that are facing new cost-cutting pressures in the globalized economy.

#C352, 38 pages
$10.00
Quantity:
Preview not available

What Do Unions Do for Women?
by Roberta Spalter-Roth, Heidi Hartmann, and Nancy Collins (March 1994)

At a time when union membership has been declining overall, a new report by IWPR, "What Do Unions Do For Women?" shows that the number of women who are unions members has continued to increase. As a result, women are currently 37 percent of organized labor membership-- a higher percentage than at any time in the US labor movement's history. Thus the face of unionism in the US is changing, even though much of the research on unions continues to focus on men. IWPR research shows that union membership for women because membership or coverage under a collective bargaining agreement is associated with higher wages and job tenure, as well as a smaller pay gap between women and men.

 

Low Wages for Secretaries and Clerical Workers in Indiana: A State Without A Collective Bargaining Agreement
by (April 1990)

Secretarial and clerical work (now labelled administrative support occupations) is the largest women's occupational category in the U.S. Of the 14.2 million full-time workers in these occupations, 80 percent are women. Almost three-quarters are employed in occupations that are at least 70 percent female including typists, bookkeepers, general support clerks and data entry clerks. Of these female- intensive occupations, secretarial work in the largest with 3.2 million full-time workers. An additional 3.8 million workers are employed part time in these occupations. Of these part-time workers, 86 percent are women.

 
Preview not available

Raises and Recognition: Secretaries, Clerical Workers and the Union Wage Premium
by Roberta Spalter-Roth, Ph.D, and Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D (April 1990)

 
Preview not available

Raises and Recognition: Secretaries, Clerical Workers and the Union Wage Premium
by Heidi Hartmann and Roberta Spalter-Roth (April 1990)

 
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