A new study says union construction members in Minnesota get $5.59 back in income for every $1 they pay in union dues.
The findings come in a new analysis from the Midwest Economic Policy Institute, which found that union construction members paid a yearly average of $1,381 in union dues and fees, but that they made an extra $7,720 after taxes over their nonunion counterparts. That was even before factoring in other benefits such as improved health care, pensions and the extra job satisfaction that comes with having a voice at work.
The figures reflect the broad range of union construction jobs and a highly variable pay scale that takes in data from all levels of skilled and unskilled trades, from electricians to laborers, journeymen to apprentices.
“These figures out of Minnesota reflect the sort of wage gap we see all over the U.S. and Canada,” said IBEW Director of Construction Organizing Virgil Hamilton. “Every union electrician ought to be aware of the benefits their membership brings them, but it’s useful to see the numbers laid out so clearly for people.”
And it’s not just union construction members who benefit from the strength of unions. The MEPI study points to more than 9,000 jobs in the state of Minnesota that are directly attributable either to labor organizations or to the higher spending power of the state’s union families.
In all, MEPI finds an additional $808.6 million boost to Minnesota’s economy and another $99.5 million in extra state tax revenue that would not exist without the union construction industry.
Not addressed by the study is the fact that IBEW electricians tend to do even better against their nonunion competition than members of many other building trades. “There’s typically more of a difference between union and nonunion wages as you move higher up into the skilled trades,” Hamilton said, “so it’s likely that our members are actually making even more than $5.59 extra for every dollar in dues.”
Nationally in 2015, union members in the construction industry made an average of $356 more every week than their nonunion counterparts, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That works out to nearly $19,000 more per year or a 47 percent pay difference over construction workers who don’t belong to a union
“It’s really rewarding to see these kind of studies,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “We’re out there working hard every day for our members, and to be able to show them that their membership in the IBEW is an investment that pays off many times over tells us we’re winning the battles that are important to their bottom line.”