Unions make both members and nonmembers happier

Nov 05, 2010

It’s no coincidence that American workers have never been more dissatisfied with their jobs, and labor unions’ membership keeps dropping, according to a new study co-authored by University of Notre Dame political scientist Benjamin Radcliff. The study was published recently in the journal Social Indicators Research.

Based on a study of unions in 14 nations, Radcliff found that people who live in countries in which labor union membership was robust were happier – regardless of whether or not they belonged to a labor union themselves.

“There’s both a direct effect of being a member and an indirect effect,” Radcliff says.

Examining life-satisfaction data from several European countries as well as Japan, Australia and the U.S., Radcliff and his colleagues based their study on the notion that with one’s life increasingly means happiness at work.

So what, exactly, brings workers happiness? Unions, according to Radcliff.

There are obvious benefits for members: job security, fair wages, benefits and decent hours. But for those who are not members, there is Radcliff’s “indirect effect:”

“People who have union jobs like their jobs better,” he says. “And that puts pressure on other employers to extend the same benefits and wages to compete with the union shops.”

The study also found that the lower-paid labor union members are the ones who find contentment through organized labor, rather than union members who earn the highest salaries.

Radcliff notes that happiness itself is only partially quantifiable, and to take the best measure of it, one needs to consider other factors such as unemployment rate and even church attendance.

However, there is a relationship between happiness and the density of unions in a given country. Denmark, for instance, ranks near the top in both categories, and the U.S., by contrast, ranks near the bottom for happiness in all the countries studied.

Explore further: Satire has a history of informing during times of crisis

More information: Radcliff has published articles on the topic in scholarly journals including the American Political Science Review, Perspectives on Politics, Social Forces, and most recently, the Journal of Politics. He is author of the book "Happiness, Economics and Politics": al.nd.edu/news/14540-new-book-… akes-people-happier/

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Satisfying job leads to better mental health

Oct 14, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- If you want to have good mental health, it’s not enough to just have a job, you should also have a job that satisfies you, according to new research from The Australian National University. ...

Modern society made up of all types

Nov 04, 2010

Modern society has an intense interest in classifying people into ‘types’, according to a University of Melbourne Cultural Historian, leading to potentially catastrophic life-changing outcomes for those typed – ...

Consumer confidence hits five-year high in Michigan

Oct 27, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Despite Michigan’s continued economic malaise, residents’ optimism about the future is at its highest in nearly five years, according to Michigan State University’s latest State of the State ...

Recommended for you

Is this the year you join the one percent?

11 hours ago

Here's some good news for the New Year: According to new research by Washington University in St. Louis and Cornell University, there's a 1 in 9 chance that a typical American will hit the jackpot and join ...

Satire has a history of informing during times of crisis

21 hours ago

Just as only the jester can tell the King the truth, satire performs a vital function in democratic society by using humor to broach taboo subjects, especially in times of crisis, according to a book by Penn State researchers.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.