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Union Membership Boosts Life Satisfaction

December 11, 2014 Updated: September 8, 2020


Patrick Flavin from Baylor University and Gregory Shufeldt from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock released a study on “Labor Union Membership and Life Satisfaction” that suggests that organized labor in the United States can have a significant impact on peoples’ quality of life. Using data from the World Values Survey, they uncovered evidence that union members are more satisfied with their lives than non-union workers. They also found that union membership boosts life satisfaction across demographic groups regardless if someone is rich or poor, male or female, young or old, or has a high or low level of education. The study revealed that labor unions can contribute to citizens’ quality of life through a variety of ways.

The first way explains how having a direct “voice” in their workplace helps members be more satisfied with the work experience. A majority of Americans spend most of their time in the work place. By having a say and some control at work helps union members have a more agreeable and positive experience at the place where they spend a majority of their waking hours.

Second, labor union members are generally more likely to feel secure in their job as compared with non-union workers because one goal of organized labor is to ensure job security for its members. Union protection from unemployment can help to guard against feelings of stress and anxiety that can come with losing a job or the fear of potentially losing a job.

Third, labor unions provide multiple opportunities for greater human interaction that in turn can lessen feelings of loneliness and social isolation. By their very definition, unions are a collection of individuals who join together to pursue common goals. In doing so, bonds of trust are formed among members that can extend even beyond the workplace. Integration into formal and informal professional and social support networks can help reduce job stress and promote solidarity among members.

With these points, the researchers argue there are strong reasons to expect that union membership will boost levels of well-being regardless of personal demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. Regardless of their specific occupation, it is expected that union members will experience greater job satisfaction, have greater job security, have more social connections, and more opportunities for meaningful participation both at work and in politics when compared with those who are not part of a union.

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