Kamala Harris touts strength of labor unions to build the middle class

A woman holds a “Union” sign as members of the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild walk a picket line outside Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, July 14, 2023.

Chris Delmas | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Unions boost pay 10% to 15% for members and improve fringe benefits, bolstering the middle class and economy, a U.S. Department of the Treasury report released Monday said.

“Union workers make our middle class and our entire economy more strong,” Vice President Kamala Harris said Monday on a call outlining the administration’s efforts to support unions.

“President Biden and I are building an economy where every person, not just the wealthy, (is) well-connected, has the opportunity to thrive,” she added.

The report, issued by Treasury’s Office of Economic Policy, also showed that unionization reduces wage gaps by race and gender and improves benefits and procedures such as retirement plans, grievance policies and steady work schedules.

This year has seen several high-profile labor organizations push for better pay and working conditions as inflation has hammered the middle class.

Since the Federal Reserve began hiking interest rates to combat inflation in March 2022, the middle class has lost more than $2 trillion in wealth, according to Bloomberg, citing data from the University of California, Berkeley.

UPS workers agreed to a landmark collective bargaining deal this month and the Writers Guild of America strike has surpassed 100 days. The United Auto Workers and its nearly 150,000 workers are facing a Sept. 14 deadline for contract negations. A strike from the UAW would be a major blow to American carmakers.

“During this summer of worker strikes and organizing, we’re seeing unprecedented public support for unions as a critical pathway to grow the middle class and provide opportunities for working people to thrive,” Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO, told CNBC.