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New Report ‘Confirms’ Organized Labor ‘Takes The High Road’ In Western New York, ‘Successfully Working Together To Make The Region More Prosperous & Equitable’

Report Highlights ‘Confirmation’ Of WNY’s Unions ‘Raising’ Benefits & Wages, ‘Improving’ Working Conditions, Making ‘Investments’ In Their Communities, Providing An ‘Increase’ In Civic Engagement & ‘Promoting Sound’ Public Policies

Published Monday, March 11, 2019
by WNYLaborToday.com Staff
New Report ‘Confirms’ Organized Labor ‘Takes The High Road’ In Western New York, ‘Successfully Working Together To Make The Region More Prosperous & Equitable’

(BUFFALO, NEW YORK) - A new report, titled: Labor Takes The High Road - How Unions Make Western New York More Prosperous & Equitable, underscores the worth and impact of the region’s Labor Unions, which have proven to raise benefits and wages, improve working conditions, make investments in their communities, increase civic engagement, and promote sound public policies.

The 18-month-long study and report was undertaken by the Partnership for the Public Good - a community-based Think Tank that unites more than 280 organizations across Western New York, in collaboration with Cornell University’s Industrial School of Labor Relations/Buffalo Co-Lab, the Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation (WNYALF) and its affiliated Member Unions, and the Workforce Development Institute (WDI).

Publicly unveiled at a late Friday (March 8th) press conference (Pictured Below/WNYALF Photos), it comprehensively revealed the major impact Unions have on the region, not only through Collective Bargaining, but also for the common good of Western New York’s eight counties and numerous communities. 

The authors of the report found Union Members in Western New York enjoy substantially higher wages, enjoy more full-time work, more health insurance coverage and more pension benefits than Non-Members: The Unions’ impact radiate out far beyond their Members.  Research reveals Unions improve wages, job quality, health and safety, for other Workers as well.  Unions support community efforts with volunteer hours and donations and they play a critical role in workforce development and training.  Finally, Organized Labor advocates for high road public policies regarding issues such as Civil Rights, public health and responsible economic development.

The report concluded: The role of Unions is more important than ever.  Western New York has seen a surge in economic development and a major boost to civic morale.  Buffalo’s waterfront, medical corridor and downtown have attracted large public and private investments, and (New York State’s) Buffalo Billion initiatives have brought new life to old industrial sites on Buffalo’s South and East Sides.  And yet, severe challenges remain: Middle Wage Jobs continue to vanish, and the City of Buffalo has the fourth-highest child poverty rate in the Nation.  One-third of the region’s workforce works in an occupation with a median wage of less than $15 per hour, and too many Workers - lacking the advantage of Union Membership, are lacking the basic components of a good job, full-year, full-time employment, fixed schedules, health care, paid sick days and vacations, workplace safety, pensions and freedom from exploitation.  The research gathered in this report demonstrates that Organized Labor is vital to forging a sustainable and equitable path forward.  Western New York’s Unions have proven that they raise benefits and wages, improve working conditions, investment in their communities, an increase in civic engagement, and the promotion of sound public policies.  Labor builds the high road - the road to shared prosperity in a thriving region.

“This study shows ‘no doubt’ the role Organized Labor (plays here in Western New York),” WNYALF President Richard Lipsitz (pictured below) told WNYLaborToday.com.  “We want to use this as a ‘tool’ to ‘organize and push a number of positive and beneficial initiatives, as well as dispel the lingering stereotype that Unions are a bad thing.’  This study ‘will also be used to educate Workers of all backgrounds’ that Organized Labor provides a ‘path to a better life, both economically and socially. “  

The WNYALF is the umbrella Labor Organization, overseeing five Central Labor Councils – in Buffalo, Niagara-Orleans, Dunkirk, Jamestown and Cattaraugus-Allegany - whose Affiliated Member Unions combine to represent more than 140,000 Union Members. 

The Labor Takes The High Road - How Unions Make Western New York More Prosperous & Equitable Report also found:

Historically, Unions have played a pivotal role in contributing to the overall economy by securing higher wages and extended health care benefits, better job quality and equity opportunities and safer working conditions. 

Unions are also instrumental in improving conditions for Non-Union Workers, as well as in the realm of creating competitive wages and policy advocacy.

The Labor Movement makes Western New York a better place for all its residents as research demonstrates conclusively that Unions raise wages and benefits for the region’s Workers, and that they make workplaces more safe, healthy, and fair - reducing turnover and offering Workers a voice.

But the impact of Organized Labor reaches far beyond individual workplaces.

Through community service, civic engagement, worker assistance, workforce development and public policy advocacy, Union Members build the “high road” that makes the entire community more prosperous, united and inclusive.

Two overarching aspects of Unions make them uniquely important to a healthy region.

First, they are democratic institutions, with Leaders elected by Members.  This makes them particularly responsive to the needs and goals of Working People and it also makes them training grounds for democratic participation in other areas of public life.

Second, they are intensively collaborative, constantly seeking win-win resolutions.

Union Members want the companies where they work to succeed and they want their local economies to grow and flourish.

In a time where many Americans are concerned about polarization, the lack of civic cohesion, and the vulnerability of the Working Class, Unions have an unmatched ability to bring people together around the shared values of equality, justice, and opportunity.

Organized Labor is one of the most important civic institutions in Western New York, with more than 140,000 Union Members working and living across the eight-county region.

In the Buffalo-Niagara Metropolitan Area alone, one out of every five Workers is a Union Member, for a total of 101,240 Members. 

Of those Members, 57% are Public Servants, while 43% work in the Private Sector.

Union Density in Buffalo-Niagara and New York State New York boasts the highest Union Density of any State, with 23.8% of Workers in Unions, compared to a National rate of 10.7%.

Buffalo-Niagara’s Union Density (19.9%) is lower than the State average and is lower than the Unionization Rate in Albany (32.2%), Syracuse (23.7%), and New York City (21.8%), but higher than that in Rochester (17.9%).

However, the report’s research on wages and benefits for Buffalo-Niagara Workers shows substantial advantages correlated to Union Membership:

Wages - Men covered by Union Contracts have a Median Annual Wage of $64,000, whereas men who are not covered have a Median Wage of $34,000.  For women, the gap is smaller - but still dramatic: $40,000 compared to $26,000.  

Full-Time Work - 79.8% of Union Members work full time, compared to 71.8% of Non-Union Workers.

Health Care - 97.1% of Workers covered by Union Contracts have health care coverage, compared to 89.2% of Workers not covered.

Pensions – 77% of Union Members have pensions, compared to 39.8% of Non-Union Workers. Importantly, the Union Wage Gap is particularly strong among Low-Wage Workers and Unions have been shown to raise wages even for Non-Members by “raising the floor’ of wages in a given sector or job market.

To View The Entire Report, Go To: https://ppgbuffalo.org/files/documents/labortakesthehighroad_final_hr.pdf

To View The Report’s Summary, Go To: https://ppgbuffalo.org/files/documents/labortakesthehighroadexec_sum_final_hr.pdf

 

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