Section 1: Unionization and Inequality

a. Lawrence Mishel and Jessica Schieder, “As union membership has fallen, the top 10 percent have been getting a larger share of income,” Economic Policy Institute, Economic Snapshot, May 24, 2016,


Main finding:

The single largest factor suppressing wage growth for working people andsuppressing union membership over the last few decades has been the erosion of collective bargaining.

b. Oregon Center for Public Policy, “Stronger unions could reduce income inequality and strengthen Oregon’s economy,” Oregon Center For Public Policy, State of Working Oregon Series, April 29, 2016,

Inequality widens

c. Economic Policy Institute, “The benefits of collective bargaining, an antidote to wage decline and inequality,” Economic Policy Institute, Fact Sheet, April 14, 2015,

Union membership

d. Will Kimball and Lawrence Mishel, “Unions’ Decline and the Rise of the Top 10 Percent’s Share of Income,” Economic Policy Institute, Economic Snapshot, February 3, 2015,

Union membership and inequality

e. David Cooper and Lawrence Mishel, “The erosion of collective bargaining has widened the gap between productivity and pay,” Economic Policy Institute, Report, January 6, 2015,

compensation and collective bargaining

Section 2: Public Sector Unionization

a. Jamie Partridge, “How Postal Workers removed the Staples,” The Bullet, E-Bulletin 1365, February 6, 2017,

b. Jeffrey H. Keefe, “Laws enabling public sector collective bargaining have not led to excessive public sector pay,” Economic Policy Institute, Briefing Paper #409, October 16, 2015,

Section 3: Union Organizing Efforts

a. Katherine V.W. Stone, “Unions in the Precarious Economy: How collective bargaining can help gig and on-demand workers,” American Prospect, Winter 2017,

b. Eileen Purcell, “IBEW 1245 launches public sector member-to-member education drive on the ‘union difference’,” AFL-CIO Blog, March 11, 2016,

c. Michelle Chen, “This Is How Bad the Sharing Economy Is for Workers, And this is how reformers and activists might win protections for Silicon Valley’s so-called ‘independent contractors,’” The Nation, September 14, 2015,

Section 4: The Union Difference

a. Cherrie Bucknor, “Black Workers, Unions, and Inequality,” Center for Economic and Policy Research, August 30, 2016,

Main finding:

This paper finds that Black union workers of today are very different from Black union workers of the past. In particular, Black union workers today are more likely to be female, older, have more years of formal education, be immigrants, and work in the public sector.

Black union workers also enjoy higher wages, and better access to health insurance and retirement benefits than their non-union peers. These benefits persist even after controlling for systematic differences between the union and non-union workforce. Specifically, Black union workers on average earn 16.4 percent higher wages than non-union Black workers. Black union workers are also 17.4 percentage points more likely than non-union Blacks to have employer-provided health insurance, and 18.3 percentage points more likely to have an employer-sponsored retirement plan.


b. Jake Rosenfeld, Patrick Denice, and Jennifer Laird, “Union decline lowers wages of nonunion workers, The overlooked reason why wages are stuck and inequality is growing,” Economic Policy Institute, Report, August 30, 2016,

Key findings:

For nonunion private-sector men, weekly wages would be an estimated 5 percent ($52) higher in 2013 if private-sector union density (the share of workers in similar industries and regions who are union members) remained at its 1979 level. For a year-round worker, this translates to an annual wage loss of $2,704. For the 40.2 million nonunion private-sector men the loss is equivalent to $2.1 billion fewer dollars in weekly paychecks, which represents an annual wage loss of $109

The effects of union decline on the wages of nonunion women are not as substantial because women were not as unionized as men were in 1979. Weekly wages would be approximately 2 to 3 percent higher if union density remained at its 1979 levels for all nonunion women; nonunion, non–college graduate women, and nonunion women with a high school diploma or less education. However the cumulate effects are still sizable. For 32.9 million full-time nonunion women working in the private sector, weekly pay would be a total of $461 million more (and roughly $24.0 billion more per year) in 2013 if unions had remained as strong as they were in 1979.

The degree of nonunion wage decline reflects how much unionization has declined since 1979 among private-sector men (by two-thirds, from 34 to 10 percent), among women (by more than one-half, from 16 to 6 percent), and especially among non–college degree men (by more than two-thirds, from 38 to 11 percent).


c. Worker stories from the successful April 2016 union organizing campaign at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center

Who We Are,

The Union Difference,

Section 5: The Right to Work Experience

a. Steve Smith, Rep. Steve King and the Racist Origins of So-Called Right to Work,” California Labor Federation, March 13, 2017,

b. Leah Fried, “Five Steps to Maintain Unity and Membership under Right to Work, Labor Notes, February 1, 2017,

c. Ross Eisenbrey and Teresa Kroeger, “A tale of two states (and what it tells us about so-called “right-to-work” laws),” Economic Policy Institute, blog, January 12, 2017,

Main findings:

In 2011 and 2012 two states, New Hampshire and Indiana, debated the same bill: so-called “right-to-work” legislation, pushed by corporate lobbyists and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), designed to weaken unions financially and pave the way for greater corporate dominance of state politics. New Hampshire’s governor vetoed the bill in 2011. Indiana, by contrast, enacted it in 2012. It is instructive to compare the two states. By almost any measure, the economy of New Hampshire is stronger and its citizens are better off, on average, than the citizens of Indiana.

Now, [2017] New Hampshire’s legislature is once again debating a right-to-work bill. The bill’s sponsors make claims it will improve New Hampshire’s business climate and bring new jobs to the state, but there is no truth to this. Job growth in Indiana since it passed right-to-work has been no better than in New Hampshire.



d. Molly Beck, “Union membership in Wisconsin tumbles below national average,” Wisconsin State Journal, January 29, 2016,

e. Jeffrey Keefe, “Eliminating fair share fees and making public employment “right-to-work” would increase the pay penalty for working in state and local government,” Economic Policy Institute, Report, October 13, 2015,

Main findings:

State and local government employees earn less than similar private-sector workers, even though their education level (the most important predictor of earnings) is higher; however, they receive better health benefits and pensions. Previous research has found a public-sector compensation “penalty” of 2 percent to 11 percent, with state employees at the higher end of the penalty spectrum. (The penalty is how much less they earn in wages and benefits than private-sector workers with the same education, experience, etc.). Studies alleging that public employees are overcompensated do not control for skill levels and education.

Public-sector unions raise wages of public employees compared with similar nonunion public employees, which helps to narrow the private-public wage gap in those unionized sectors. The current public-employee union wage boost of 5 percent to 8 percent (Keefe 2013) is rather modest and considerably less than the boost that private-sector unions provide. Thus public employee unions, on average, do not raise wages to meet the wages paid to similar private-sector employees.

However, public-employee unions in full collective-bargaining states that permit union security (i.e., agency shop clauses) do raise total compensation to competitive market standards set by the private sector. In other words, only public employees in states with full collective bargaining make as much as their private-sector peers. In partial collective bargaining states, right-to-work states, and states that prohibit collective bargaining, public employees earn lower wages and compensation than comparable private sector employees, and this low compensation may impede state and local governments from recruiting and retaining highly skilled employees for their many professional and public safety occupations.

If the Supreme Court renders agency shop clauses unenforceable for public employees, it will shrink union membership because more people will try to gain services without paying for them (the “free-rider” problem). In RTW states in between 2000 and 2014, free-riders represented 20.3 percent of public-employee bargaining units (i.e., the public-sector unions were certified to represent them but they had decided not to join their workplace’s union nor to pay dues), while public-sector union density (the share of public-sector workers in a union) was only 17.4 percent. In states permitting agency-shop agreements (i.e., non-RTW states) only 6.8 percent of the bargaining units were nonunion members (but in this case not free-riders but agency-fee-payers paying fees equivalent to about 85 percent of dues) and union density was 49.6 percent . This near threefold gap in union density between RTW and non-RTW states underscores the importance of agency fees to the functioning of public employee unions and their ability to provide representation to their members.

If the court renders agency-shop clauses unenforceable for public employees, it will reduce public-employee compensation by increasing the pay penalty for working in state and local government. Using American Community Survey data, this report finds that the public-sector pay penalty is 1 percent in non-RTW states and 10 percent in RTW states, a net RTW compensation penalty of 9 percentage points.

f. Elise Gould and Will Kimball, “’Right-to-Work’ states still have lower wages,” Economic Policy Institute, Briefing Paper, #395, April 22, 2015,

Main findings:

Wages in RTW states are 3.1 percent lower than those in non-RTW states, after controlling for a full complement of individual demographic and socioeconomic factors as well as state macroeconomic indicators. This translates into RTW being associated with $1,558 lower annual wages for a typical full-time, full-year worker.

The relationship between RTW status and wages remains economically and statistically significant under alternative specifications of our econometric model.

Section 6: Anti-worker Threats and Arguments 

a.  Penny Lewis, “Viewpoint: What’s Coming for Unions under President Trump,” Labor Notes, January 19, 2017,

b. Mario Vanquez, “Labor Law Faces Dire New Threats From Supreme Court Under Trump,” Truthout, December 3, 2016,

c. Oregonian Editorial Board, “Oregon ‘right to work’ initiative is suddenly very relevant: Editorial Agenda 2016,” The Oregonian, April 1, 2016,

Section 7: General References

a. Why Unions Matter, Keep Oregon Working, June 2016,



b. Work, Money and Power: Unions in the 21st Century, third edition 2013, The UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education,

c. John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney, The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China, Monthly Review Press, 2012.

d. Michael K. Honey (editor), All Labor Has Dignity (Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. on Labor Rights and Economic Justice), Beacon Press, 2012.