New Data Shows Maine Workers Who Earn Less Get Boost From Union Membership

Washington, D.C. — Being a union member significantly augments wages for lower-paid workers in Maine, a study released today by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) shows. From 2003 to 2007, union membership boosted the wages of a typical low-wage worker in Maine by 20.1 percent. For typical workers slightly above the bottom pay scale, the boost was 15-17.8 percent. These figures reflect the national finding that the wages of a typical low-wage worker were 20.7 percent higher if they belonged to a union.

“For millions of workers who work hard and take home less to show for it, being part of a union that provides a say on the job is all the more important,” said Maine AFL-CIO President Ed Gorham.

Tim Belcher of the Maine State Employees/Service Employees International Union said, “To build prosperity in Maine, we need to value work and support working people. Low wage workers in Maine need services like child care
and home care for disabled family members, so they can fully participate in our economy. They also need the economic power that comes from unionization to ensure that they share in the prosperity they help create. Organizing low wage workers will help build recognition and value for their work, and will help protect responsible employers from the competitive pressure to cut wages and benefits.”

While the positive wage effect from being a union member was strongest for workers who earned less, the study also showed that unionization has a substantial amplifying effect on wages for all workers – including those whose earnings were in the middle and top of the wage distribution. The typical worker in Maine – the earner right in the middle of the state pay scale – saw his or her wages raised by 9.7 percent due to union membership.  Nationally, the typical worker saw his or her wages raised by 11.9 percent.

William Murphy of the Bureau of Labor Education at the University of Maine commented,”These findings have particular relevance and importance for Maine, where the decline in the percentage of the workforce that is unionized has contributed to a decline in the overall standard of living for many in this state.”

The CEPR study sought to estimate the most accurate average union wage premiums for workers at different wage levels by controlling for other worker characteristics including age, gender, location, education, and industry. The report analyzed five years of data on 16-to-64 year old workers from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey for the years 2003 through 2007. 

The study was authored by John Schmitt, a Senior Economist at the CEPR.  The Center for Economic and Policy Research is an independent, nonpartisan think tank established to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people’s lives. CEPR’s Advisory Board of Economists includes Nobel Laureate economists Robert Solow and Joseph Stiglitz; Richard Freeman, Professor of Economics at Harvard University; and Eileen Appelbaum, Professor and Director of the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University.

To access the study: The Union Wage Advantage