What Today’s Unions Are Doing for Professionals

Aug 31, 2018 · 3 min read

As we approach Labor Day, many of us are reminded of union victories of the past — like the 40-hour workweek and child labor laws — but many Americans are unfamiliar with the achievements of today’s unions. For Labor Day, the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE) wants to recognize the accomplishments of today’s union members. In just the last six months, nonprofit employees, broadcast technicians, digital journalists, college faculty, public radio staffers, and many other professionals joined together to use their collective voice to negotiate for better pay, benefits, and working conditions. The following are some examples of what these union professionals recently achieved.

Pay Increases

· In February, Boeing employees and members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) earned bonuses of 7.2 percent of their annual salary — which, on average was $9,500. SPEEA members also earned an overall 3.2 percent raise with an additional 1.8 percent lump sum in compensation.

· This month, Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) members working at Bay Area Theaters negotiated for and approved an agreement that includes immediate pay increases ranging from 3.5 percent to 37.1 percent and additional 4 percent increases for each subsequent year of the contract until July 2022.

· International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) members working in Philadelphia will earn 3.25 percent raises for the current fiscal year, 3.5 percent raises next year, and 3.75 percent raises in the year after that with their new union contract.

Better Benefits

· Last month, Spanish-language television performers at Telemundo Television Studios who are SAG-AFTRA members used their collective voice and approved a first contract that includes contributions and participation in the SAG-AFTRA health and pension plans for the first time.

· In January, professionals at Peoples Gas Chicago who are members of the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) negotiated for continued pension protections and enhanced health savings account contributions.

· Nonprofit professionals at the Center for American Progress who are members of the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union (NPEU) secured up to 12 weeks of paid time off upon the birth or adoption of a child, as well as six weeks to attend to a sick family member or to themselves, if they are very ill.

Stronger Workplaces

· In early July, nurses at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center who are American Federation of Teachers (AFT) members used their collective voice to improve the on-call system to prevent nurse fatigue by negotiating for on-call to be used only in emergencies and for unforeseen influxes in patients, instead of as a staffing tool. To deter misuse of the on-call system, nurses will be paid extra if they are called in for an inappropriate reason.

· Nashville Symphony musicians who are members of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) ratified a new contract last month that includes the addition of two more orchestra members — a first violin and a cellist.

· The editorial staff at The Intercept who are members of Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) ratified their first union contract in July and negotiated a diversity provision that makes sure when the news site is hiring at least two underrepresented (i.e. women, minorities, LGBTQ+) candidates are interviewed. The contract also established a diversity committee with both management representatives and union members that will meet quarterly about diversity initiatives.

These are just a sampling of workplace improvements professionals have made by joining together in union. For a more detailed list of examples of what joining together in union has done for the 6.15 million professional union members, check out our fact sheet.

As you celebrate Labor Day this weekend, don’t just reflect on how unions got you the day off or the weekend. Instead, think about your workplace — is there something you and your colleagues would like to change? If so, reach out to us to learn more about how joining together in union can improve where you work.


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A coalition of 24 national unions representing more than four million professional, technical, and other highly skilled workers