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When it comes to wages union workers should have few complaints

Michigan's decision to join the ranks of right-to-work states has brought the issue of union versus non-union wage scales back into the public forum. Employers struggling to keep their business on an even keel and possibly add workers are facing pressure from increasingly activist unions intent on building membership. Some new information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that union workers do far better than non-union workers in several important occupations.

Starting with government workers of all stripes, unionized public servants earn a median income of $973 a week, about $230 more than non-union staff. 'Median" means that half of workers earned more and half earned less; this is essentially the middle of the scale. Next up are unionized teachers with a median income of $1.038 weekly, about 25 percent more than non-union. About a third of the nation's teachers are organized. Non-union police and firefighters earn about 40 percent less, transportation and warehousing staff get 30 percent less, and utility workers see paychecks about 10 percent smaller than their union brethren. Unionized factory and construction jobs paid significantly more.

Based on pay, it would seem that joining a union would be a no-brainer for most people, but more money comes with a price. Mandatory union dues deducted directly from paychecks, highly-paid union executives working and traveling in first-class style, and millions of dollars spent on political activity are drawbacks to many people. Strikes are another issue. The ill-considered strike by Hostess' bakery workers shut the company down, putting 18,500 people out of work. Georgia ranks 49th in the nation when it comes to union membership; about 4 percent of the workforce are organized.

With millions of people still out of a job and ready to take the first available open position, the organized labor sector has to consider the price of their advocacy for higher wages and richer benefits. Expect more states to follow Michigan's lead as business leaders try to pull the economy out of the mire.

Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution, "Across the board, union workers get higher pay," Christopher Seward, Dec. 12, 2012

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