Steven Greehouse, a veteran journalist, wrote an article for The American Prospect that demonstrates the power of unions to improve the lives of workers. The story includes vignettes of workers in different fields who describe how joining a union has raised their salaries, cut the cost of healthcare, and created a workplace where their voices are heard.

He tells the stories of the following working people, whose lives were changed by organizing or joining a union.

  • Laura Asher, a former combat medic who was working as a hospital aide, saw her pay jump when she entered her union’s apprenticeship program to become a crane operator. Her pay is now more than three times what her hospital job paid.
  • Gregory Swanson, a charter school teacher, was hugely frustrated that his school’s top official assigned him a salary far below his level of experience. But his union contract changed that, requiring the school to follow a pay scale based on years of experience.
  • Madeleine Souza-Rivera, a barista at a café in one of Google’s giant office complexes, used to feel overwhelmed by the $9,600 she paid each year in health care premiums. Thanks to her union contract, she now pays nothing toward health premiums.
  • Donnell Jefferson, a warehouse worker, complained that he was never sure when he could leave work—his boss would suddenly order workers to put in two, and sometimes even eight, extra hours on the job. But with his union contract, his work hours are now far more predictable.
  • Lorie Quinn, a hospital housekeeper who cleans intensive-care units, has seen her pay increase by 70 percent since her hospital unionized six years ago. Moreover, her health insurance premiums have been cut in half.

More than 14 million workers across the United States—carpenters, steelworkers, nurses, teachers, truck drivers, and many others—are union members, but rarely does one read how unions have improved workers’ jobs and lives.