Unions Benefit All Workers With Better Pay And Stable Shifts, Collective Bargaining Reduces The Gender Pay Gap
Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH
A New York Times contributor shared her experience working as a cocktail server in Las Vegas, where she saw how unions helped workers -- especially women and immigrants -- receive better pay, benefits, and job security.
Brittany Bronson, a Times contributor and an instructor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) highlighted the importance of unions in an August 17 op-ed, discussing how unions provide many benefits that specifically help women in the workplace. Bronson reported from her own experience that “unions are strong in Las Vegas,” providing workers in the casino and hospitality industry “benefits that cocktail servers and hotel workers in other states can only dream of.” These benefits and protections -- including good wages, health care packages, and stable scheduling -- are why Bronson saw “so many lifers in [the] industry.” The op-ed also discussed how union seniority helped women maintain their rights at work -- something that “runs counter to most American workplaces, where women tend to lose power as they age” and the gender pay gap widens for women as they get older.
The role unions can play in tackling pay disparities and overall economic inequality is frequently dismissed by right-wing media, which deny the existence of a gender pay gap and misleadingly blame unions for contributing to economic deterioration. Working women in the United States earned “just 79 percent of what men were paid” in 2014, according to a Spring 2016 report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Pay disparities follow women throughout their careers, depressing their earnings potential and contributing to elevated rates of poverty in retirement. Union seniority rights and collective bargaining opportunities could be an important part of ending the gender pay gap by preventing pay discrimination against women -- as the op-ed pointed out, the Pew Charitable Trust found that the gender pay gap narrows in union shops, where women are paid roughly 88 percent as much as their male counterparts. From the August 17 edition of The New York Times:
Unions are strong in Las Vegas, and they bring benefits that cocktail servers and hotel workers in other states can only dream of: Beyond better wages and health care packages, union members are ensured set schedules and their first choice of coveted shifts, based on seniority. It’s why there are so many lifers in my industry: At the top of our cocktailing matriarchy was a woman who had joined the union in 1973.
The Las Vegas casino scene runs counter to most American workplaces, where women tend to lose power as they age. According to research by the recruiting site Glassdoor, the pay gap, even after it’s adjusted for things like occupation, increases with age — from 2.2 percent for women ages 18 to 24 to 10.5 percent for women between 55 and 64. Family obligations and gender discrimination take women out of the American work force, meaning fewer promotions, fewer women in management and ultimately fewer raises.
The benefits ripple outward, in the form of family wealth building and educational opportunities. According to a March 2015 New York Times report, a girl in a poor family who grows up in Las Vegas will make 7 percent more than she would elsewhere by age 26. Income mobility for women is better in Clark County, where Las Vegas is, than it is in 71 percent of counties nationwide.