MEDIA RELEASE: For Service Workers in North Carolina, Unions Make A Big Financial Difference

For Service Workers, Unions Make A Big Financial Difference
In North Carolina, unionization raises the wages of the average service worker by 8.1 percent, new study finds

RALEIGH (April  7, 2009) - Service-sector workers who are members of labor unions earn significantly more than their non-union peers. They also are more apt to receive employer-sponsored health insurance and retirement benefits. Overall, workers in service jobs benefit as much from union membership as do workers in manufacturing-sector jobs.   

"The average North Carolina service worker who is a union member earns 8.1 percent more than a non-unionized one," says John Quinterno, Research Associate at the NC Budget & Tax Center.

These findings come from a new report, Unions and Upward Mobility for Service-Sector Workers, by economist John Schmitt of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). A think tank based in Washington D.C., CEPR is a research partner of the Budget & Tax Center.

Nationwide, the report found that unionized service-sector workers earn 10.1 percent - or about $2.00 per hour - more than their non-unionized peers. The wage premium is even more pronounced for workers in such low-paid occupations as food service workers, home-care aides, child-care workers and teaching assistants. For individuals working in the nation's 15 lowest-wage occupations, unionization increases their wages by 15.5 percent or almost $3.00 per hour.

"In North Carolina, the median unionized service worker in North Carolina earns $19.91 per hour while the typical non-unionized service worker earns $13.87," adds Quinterno. "Besides raising hourly pay, unionization increases the odds that a service-sector worker, especially a low-wage one, will receive employer-sponsored health insurance and retirement benefits. Nationally, 77 percent of unionized service workers have employer-sponsored health insurance and 76 percent have a retirement plan."  

"A growing body of research evidence shows that unions play a powerful role in turning low-paying jobs into middle-class jobs, " explains Quinterno. "Strengthening the ability of workers to exercise their rights to form unions and bargain collectively over wages, benefits and working conditions is a simple yet powerful way of improving the quality of service-sector jobs."

The full report is available online at

For More Information, Contact: John Quinterno, Research Associate, NC Budget & Tax Center 919-856-3185 (office); 919-622-2392 (mobile); Alan Barber, Domestic Communications Coordinator, Center for Economic & Policy Research, (202) 293-5380, ext. 115 


The NC Budget & Tax Center provides timely, accessible and credible analysis of state and local budget and tax issues with a special focus on the impact on low- and moderate-income North Carolinians.
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.