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The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) just released a new report today that finds young workers have been hit hardest by economic woes and stagant wages over the last three decades. It finds that "younger workers are earning about 10 percent less than their counterparts did in 1979, despite impressive gains in young workers' educational attainment over the same time period."

That certainly sucks, considering the economic meltdown we find ourselves in today. But there's hope, young workers. What's one of the best ways for young workers to protect themselves in these tough economic times, according to CEPR? A union job! More below the fold...

CEPR finds that young workers are more susceptible to the volatility of the labor market, for a number of reasons.

Young workers suffer most in a poor economy because they are the most vulnerable to the forces that have put downward pressure on wages over the last 30 years. The erosion of the inflation adjusted
value of the minimum wage has been particularly bad for younger workers.

The reports also finds that one of the major causes of that vulnerability is the decline of unions in the last 30 years. Young workers, they point out, do better with a union:

For younger workers, as for the workforce as a whole, unions are one of the most important institutional features of the labor market that offer a degree of protection from an unregulated labor market. One factor contributing to the absolute and relative decline in the wages of young workers is the steep drop over the same period in their unionization rate. In 1983 (earliest year available), 16.0 percent of young workers were in a union; by 2007, the figure had fallen by almost half to 8.2 percent.

What kind of benefits do unions provide young workers? Well, besides that protection from an unregulated labor market--and unmeasurable benefits like respect in the workplace and a sense of security--young workers also benefit from higher wages, and are more likely to have employer-based health care. From the study:

On average, unionization raised young workers’ wages by 12.4
percent – about $1.75 per hour – compared to non-union young workers with similar characteristics. The union impact on health-insurance and pension coverage was even larger. Among young workers, those in unions were about 17 percentage points more likely to have employer-provided health insurance, and about 24 percentage points more likely to be in an
employer-provided pension.

These days, when CEO greed runs rampant and our economy is in a tailspin, everyone could benefit from the advantages a union provides. But, as the CEPR study shows, young workers could benefit most of all as they find themselves at the bottom of the economic totem pole.

By the way, this is just another reason why we need to pass the Employee Free Choice Act in the coming year. Young workers may want a union, but in most instances they can't organize one at their workplace because our current labor laws are too weak--leaving employers free to harrass and threaten employees with impunity. Young workers, feeling the least secure in their jobs, may be the most vulnerable to employer intimidation. We need the Employee Free Choice Act so that workers are free to join and form unions without company interference--improving their lives and our economy in the process.

Cross posted at UnionGal

Originally posted to 4workers on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 08:13 AM PDT.

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