Paying workers better wages has an obvious benefit to the individual. However, there are additional benefits that often get overlooked and that have a wide-ranging, positive impact.

One of the often-overlooked benefits of union membership is the impact that it has on the economy. The additional income that unionized workers earn invariably finds its way back into the local economy — supporting local business. The taxation generated from the additional spending also goes back into the community in the form of funding for any number of projects — such as infrastructure, general maintenance or social programs. According to researchers at the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), unionized workers earn $2.67 an hour more on average than non-unionized workers. With 135,000 unionized workers currently employed in the city — that equates to an additional $11 million going back into the local economy every week.

Livable wage

However, perhaps the most important benefit is that better compensation provides a livable wage  and prevents families from falling into poverty. In turn, this makes it less likely that unionized workers will need to rely on social services for additional income support.

“The old myth of unions existing merely as self-serving entities is not only false — but also absurd.”

A quick perusal of unions’ history shows that many benefits and concessions gained by union activism are later rolled out to the general working population. It was unions that first campaigned for the minimum wage, paternity leave, overtime, vacation pay, proper workplace safety standards, as well as protection from workplace discrimination.

While unions have many achievements of which they can be proud, there is still much to do. Today, unions campaign on a number of issues. For example, unions continue to talk with elected officials to modernize the Canada Pension Plan to ensure that it provides a livable pension to all retired Canadians — regardless of union membership. The old myth of unions existing merely as self-serving entities is not only false – but also absurd.

Benefits to youth and women

Union membership is also important for women and especially younger people. CLC research shows that women in Alberta who belong to unions earn $6.89 more an hour than women who do not belong to unions. From a national perspective young people also do far better because of union membership. Unionized workers aged 15–29 earn an additional $5.35 an hour compared to those without union membership. That additional income is a huge boost for Canadian youth as they try to establish a solid foundation for their future. It helps them to source and establish credit and it helps them to save for a home and plan for a family — something that every Canadian should be able to do as a matter of course.

The labour movement is responsible for creating positive social change not just here in Calgary, or Canada — but around the world. By demanding equality and fairness, unions continue to advance the cause not just of its members, but for all.