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The United States Treasury Department released a first-of-its-kind report on labor unions last year, highlighting the evidence that unions strengthen the middle class and grow the economy at large.

As union members, we already know that over the past half-century, middle-class households have endured stagnant wages and employment insecurity as the wealthiest Americans prospered.

“Unions can improve the well-being of middle-class workers in ways that directly combat these negative trends,” the report states. “Pro-union policy can make a real difference to middle-class households by raising their incomes, improving their work environments, and boosting their job satisfaction. In doing so, unions can help to make the economy more equitable and robust.”

A report like this from a major federal department is reassuring and makes me even more proud of all we do for our members.

Simple comparisons of union and non-union workers show that union members typically make about 20 percent more than non-union workers over the course of a year.

What’s more, worker wellbeing is greatly affected by non-wage benefits. Some benefits, such as health care coverage and retirement plans like the ones UFCW members enjoy, have substantial monetary value.

Other aspects of the union work environment, like flexible scheduling or workplace safety regulations, also are highly valued by workers. For example, one study estimated that the average worker is willing to give up 20 percent of wages to avoid having their schedule frequently changed by their employer on short notice.

Another study found that 80 percent of people who like their jobs cite a non-wage reason as the primary cause of their satisfaction.

Through the legally binding contracts they negotiate with their employers, unions establish explicit anti-discrimination measures in hiring, treatment in the workplace and compensation. Outside of the workplace, unions advocate anti-discrimination legislation and enforcement.

Studies have confirmed that unions have significantly narrowed the wealth gaps between members of different races and genders. At the same time, they boost productivity by bringing management and workers together to solve problems.

Unions are good for their members and good for America, but we can do more. This is why we continually seek to organize new members and workplaces, thereby increasing our effectiveness at the bargaining table.

When unions have a large market share — defined as the percentage of jobs in an industry that are unionized — employers who treat their workers well are less likely to have their prices undercut by cut-throat competitors like Walmart.

All of our members are encouraged to participate in Local 99’s efforts to increase our union market share in the industries we serve. You can meet a few of our new organizers on pages 6-7 of this issue of 99Report. They have the heart, the drive and the willingness to improve the lives of working men and women by organizing new workplaces and bringing them into the union fold.

The larger our market share, the better our strength in negotiations and the better our contracts. It’s as simple as that.

Organizing is the lifeblood of this union!