The Promise of Jobs – Does it Require Unions?

Every politician and candidate sings the same mantra, “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs”. It is what voters want to hear, but accomplishing the goal takes both long-term planning and a willingness to make tough choices, abilities candidates seem to lose after they are elected.

The choices necessary to create the types of jobs workers want run in opposition to the political desires of many office holders. Their desire to force anti-worker legislation like “Right-to-Work” hinders the creation of high paying jobs.

Workers want jobs, but not just any job. Then unemployment rate is 4.5%, the lowest it has been in years. In most areas there are jobs, but workers need high paying jobs that enable them to be part of the disappearing middle-class.

A reporter who interviewed workers and job seekers in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Kentucky wrote:

“These states went to Trump and were critical to his election. All voters there want to talk about is how America needs more jobs. They don’t mean jobs at McDonald’s or an Amazon warehouse. They mean jobs that will allow them to have decent, middle class lives, that pay over $25 an hour, and come with health care and retirement benefits.”

How does this relate to unions? If jobs are going to be created that pay this amount and provide good benefits, they are most likely to be in organized companies. With a few exceptions for highly-skilled positions, jobs that pay these wages are not found in non-organized employers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports union members had median usual weekly earnings of $1,004 in 2016, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $802.

Data consistently shows worker earnings in right-to-work and other states with lower levels of union participation lag behind wages paid in more unionized states. Governing Magazine listed the top 10 median wage states, and all have among the highest levels of unionization. Although Ohio was not one of the top-10 states, our median wage of $17.19 was higher than earnings in states with lower percentages of workers in unions, such as South Carolina ($15.45), North Carolina ($16.13), and Mississippi ($14.22). I would also contend the decline in private-sector unions in Ohio was a contributing factor to its median wage remaining stagnant between 2007 and 2016.

Today, I saw a sign outside a business proclaiming they were hiring for positions “paying up to $9 per hour”. I do not mean to demean these jobs or employees, but they are clearly not the kind of jobs the voters in the article are hoping to find. The article noted “Jobs and wages are ‘why we voted him in’ as a country.” Unless the President and other politicians change their long-standing opposition to unions, it is unlikely these jobs will be found. The creation of high paying jobs with good benefits will require union contracts that provide these opportunities.

About CALMC Blog

Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to involving employers and employees to preserve jobs, resolve workplace issues, and promote labor-management cooperation. Visit our website at
This entry was posted in CALMC, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee, Job Retention, Right to Organize and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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