On Monday, many Americans — although not everyone, given that paid holidays aren’t guaranteed — will have the day off to celebrate Labor Day, often synonymous with barbecues and beach getaways.
But the holiday was originally begun in the midst of labor unrest that eventually led to the deaths of 30 striking railway workers. Legislation to create the holiday passed to meet one of the demand of the labor movement: that workers get a holiday to celebrate their efforts and sacrifices.
The labor movement has secured many other victories for American workers — the minimum wage, overtime pay, and health and safety regulations among them. But while the number of people who actually belong to a union has continued to decline over recent decades, being a member still comes with important benefits, particularly for marginalized groups like women and people of color.
According to a recent report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), while there is an overall 11.3 percent wage boost for being in a union, women get a much larger leg up. Women who work full-time and are represented by a union make about 30 percent more a week, on average, than women who aren’t unionized; men see a smaller 20 percent boost. They also have a much smaller gender wage gap: unionized women make about 89 percent of what unionized men make, compared to an overall 78 percent wage gap.