Unionized workers have more job satisfaction, but for a serious reason

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At a time when organized workers are grappling with a high-profile vote against organizing at an Amazon fulfillment center, union leaders looking for outlets to join their ranks received one. Unionized workers tend to say they are more satisfied with their work compared to their non-union counterparts, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Business, Dartmouth University and the University of London.

Or, more precisely, unionized workers are “less unhappy” than their non-union counterparts who are “being pushed into a job that doesn’t have enough hours,” said David Blanchflower, a professor at Dartmouth College, one of the authors. Blanchflower and her colleagues wrote that unions have the “ability to minimize the exposure of covered workers to underemployment, a phenomenon that has been particularly detrimental to the well-being of non-unionized workers.” The findings provide an interesting twist on a decades-long history of union membership slippage. 10.8% of the workforce belonged to a union last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s less than a 20.1% membership rate in 1983, the first comparable year. But the 2020 membership rate is up 0.5% compared to 2019, according to the agency. That’s because the 2020 pandemic-related job losses, taken together, disproportionately outweighed the job losses of union members, the Bureau of Labor Statistics explained. For Blanchflower, those rates are a reaffirmation of why there is now a link between union membership and job satisfaction. “I think it’s that scary alternative,” said Blanchflower, who has studied the links between the economy and happiness for years. Blanchflower and her colleagues obtained the data from ongoing longitudinal studies of different age groups. One group was born between 1957 and 1964 and was most recently interviewed in 2018. Another age group was born between 1980 and 1984, and was most recently interviewed in 2017. The positive link between job satisfaction and union membership is actually a relatively trend. new that has begun to emerge since the Great Recession, said the study, which was released by the National Bureau of Economic Research. It used to be that there was a negative association between union membership and job satisfaction, a phenomenon first reported in studies in the late 1970s. Unionized workers tended to earn more rather than quit, possibly because other lower-paying job prospects seemed less attractive, Blanchflower said. They also had job protections that allowed them to voice their concerns. All of this, taken together, painted the picture of less satisfied union workers. But then came the Great Recession, along with the boom in the job-hunting economy that offered wages and “side hustles,” but no benefits or full-time wages. The underemployment that came with it helped turn the tables on job satisfaction, Blanchflower said. . (Although union jobs tended to pay better rates, the researchers wrote that the gap ranged from 2000 to 2019 with no detectable pattern, “suggesting that a change in the union wage premium is unlikely to explain the increase in job satisfaction. among unionized workers compared to non-unionized workers. “Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show there was an underemployment rate of 10.7% in March 2021. That’s down from 22.9% in April 2020 , just as the pandemic began to affect the country. As the labor market emerged from the Great Recession, the underemployment rate remained at around 16% for most of 2011, figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show. The new investigation comes less than a month after workers at an Amazon AMZN fulfillment center, + 2.04% in Bessemer Alabama voted against organizing. But If unions bring more job satisfaction, what happened at Bessemer? It’s quite possible that the workers were concerned about keeping their jobs, Blanchflower said. Some observers said Bessemer’s “no” vote shows the dwindling appeal of unions, but others say the vote showed the weakness of current labor laws that allow employers to “bombard” workers with messages that could make them worry about your work if a union comes along. together. The Union of Retailers, Wholesalers and Large Stores filed an appeal with the National Labor Relations Board, saying that Amazon interfered with the right of workers to have free and fair elections. Amazon has denied intimidating the workers.