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Union members at Indiana statehouse protesting anti-union bill.
Aside from pushing for better wages and working conditions and lobbying for worker-friendly legislation like raising the minimum wage and improved workplace safety laws, one of the big ways unions can have a broad impact is in elections. While union members make up a much smaller percentage of the population than they once did, they and their families still make up about 17 percent of voters in recent elections. FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten looks at how union households have voted—isolating the effect of being a union member vs. being African American or LGBT or a range of other variables—and breaks down how much of a difference that makes:
In the ANES data set, 58 percent of union members or those living with a union member voted for Obama. If every union member or member of a union household voted as if they were not one and every other characteristic was kept constant, 51.1 percent of them still would have voted Democratic.

Obama would have lost 1.4 percentage points off his vote share in 2012 without unions. Instead of his margin of victory over Romney being 3.9 percentage points, it would have been 1.1 points.

While Obama still would have won, Enten points out that the 2.8 point difference union members made is "larger than the margin in two of the past four elections, and it’s about the same as it was in 2008." That's important context when you consider a Supreme Court case like Harris v. Quinn, which perhaps hinted at future damage this Court would consider inflicting on unions. And of course, that national percentage of the vote made up by union households isn't distributed evenly across the states—it's a lot smaller in Louisiana, for instance, and bigger in Michigan and Ohio. So as far as the electoral vote in presidential races, or Senate races, unions can help tip the scales. (Additionally, unions have worked to expand their electoral reach by organizing non-union workers in their communities through programs like Working America.)

And, of course, if you're looking for another reason—beyond simple hostility to workers—for the Supreme Court justices that installed George W. Bush in the White House, or were subsequently appointed by Bush, to be making decisions that harm unions, there it is.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 07:45 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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