FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 1, 2021

Contact: Erin Weber | | (646) 719-7021

Washington, DC — A new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) confirms the powerful impact union membership has on the women of this country. The report, Stronger Together:Union Membership Boosts Women’s Earnings and Economic Security, shows that in many key economic areas, union membership pays significant dividends to women, including higher wages and a narrower wage gap between women and men. The report also details how these benefits often mean the difference between making rent and housing insecurity for women and their families.

Key research highlights:

  • Higher wages. Women covered by a union contract earn on average $195 (or 22.6 percent) more per week than non-unionized women.
  • Narrower wage gaps. Women covered by a union contract earn 87.3 cents for every dollar paid to union men compared to non-unionized women who earn 82 cents for every dollar paid to non-unionized men.
  • Less union power = lower wages across the board. In states with restrictions on the ability of unions to bargain on behalf of workers—so-called “right-to-work” states—wages are lower than in other states regardless of gender and union membership status.
  • Making rent. The difference in the median pay for women covered by a union contract compared to non-unionized women translates to 81 percent of annual median rent costs nationally. In 43 states, at least half of the yearly average rent costs could be paid with the yearly union wage advantage, and in 12 states, the union wage advantage pays for a full year or more of average rent.

“When it comes to the economic security of American families, the data is clear: union membership means better wages and narrower gender wage gaps across the board,” said C. Nicole Mason, PhD, President and CEO of IWPR. “For women, that can mean the difference between making rent and the fear of eviction, between feeding their family and child hunger.

“For America’s workers who join together and have a union voice on the job, the higher wages, better benefits and safety protocols are undeniable.” said Liz Shuler, President of the AFL-CIO and IWPR Board member. “This new report reaffirms that being in a union has a direct and significant impact on equity for working women and their families—from improved day-to-day financial stability to retirement security. We want all working people to have the benefits of a union.”

In every state, the full-time weekly earnings of women covered by union contracts are higher than the earnings of women not represented by unions, an advantage that varies greatly by state. For instance, women covered by a union contract in Wyoming, Rhode Island, and Alaska see especially large wage advantages over their non-unionized counterparts (47.2, 41.0, and 40.7 percent, respectively). The states with the smallest union wage advantage for women are the District of Columbia (0.9 percent), Arkansas (4.0 percent), and Colorado (8.3 percent).

The benefit of union participation also translates into improved employee benefits. The percentage of women covered by a union who participate in a pension plan is almost twice as large as women who are not unionized (62.1 percent and 33.4 percent, respectively). And approximately four in five women represented by a union (80.2 percent) have employer- or union-provided health insurance coverage, whereas health insurance coverage among non-unionized women is only 70.8 percent.

Lastly, when it comes to paying rent, it is well-known that the economic “she-cession” has left women in every state struggling with housing insecurity. For instance, as many as one in five women reported being behind on their housing payments because of the pandemic in Alabama, New York, and Mississippi. Nationally, the median cost of renting an apartment in the United States is 30.5 percent of the median woman’s salary. But for women covered by a union, rent is only 25.4 percent of their median earnings, while for non-unionized women it rises to 31.9 percent.

To improve the economic security of America’s working women, IWPR’s report highlights several policy recommendations including ensuring gender and racial equality are central to all economic policies (i.e., in the distribution of federal infrastructure funds), supporting policies that increase collective bargaining and protect workers, improving women’s access to jobs with strong union representation, and increasing women’s representation in union leadership.

Click here to read the report.


The Institute for Women’s Policy Research strives to win economic equity for all women and eliminate barriers to their full participation in society. As a leading national think tank, IWPR builds evidence to shape policies that grow women’s power and influence, close inequality gaps, and improve the economic well-being of families. Learn more at and follow us on Twitter.