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  • Teachers Face Record Pay Gap, But Union Membership Helps
    Posted On: Aug 17, 2016

    By JoAnne Powers, August 18, 2016

    A new study from the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute shows that teachers’ wages and compensation are continuing to fall relative to other college graduates.  The pay gap for teachers, more than 70 percent women, has expanded to 17 percent.  Even when accounting for generous benefit packages, teachers still face a record-high pay gap.  Sylvia Allegretto, co-chair of the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at the University of California-Berkeley and one of the report’s authors, discussed the myth that teacher benefits make up for lack of wages:

    [Sylvia Allegretto]: “It’s good that public sector teachers, who are heavily unionized, are able to bargain for their wage and benefit packages, but once we take benefits into account, public school teachers do a bit better than other professional workers, but the pay gap doesn’t get completely erased.  You still have about a negative 11 percent difference between teachers and other comparable workers.”

    In 2011, teachers and their supposedly sky-high salaries and benefits were front-and-center in the fight over Wisconsin’s anti-union legislation, Act 10.  Allegretto says the state’s Republican-dominated government was, to some degree, successful at turning worker against worker:

    [Sylvia Allegretto]: “These private sector workers, whose benefits are eroding much more quickly than the covered unionized teachers, for instance…it’s not going to do them any good to see their kids’ teachers, to have their pay and benefits erode, just because theirs is eroding.   Why do teachers have better benefits, for instance?  It’s because they’re in a union, so if you want those things you should join a union, not make the teachers’ union less effective.  That’s never going to help any workers.”

    The EPI report also showed that while being in a union doesn’t eliminate the pay gap, the pay gap is much less than it is for non-unionized teachers:

    [Sylvia Allegretto]: “In 2015, again for female teachers, just because the majority of the teaching workforce, if they’re in a union the negative pay gap is just about 13 percent, but if you’re not in a union, the negative pay gap is over 22%!  We have declining union density, we have an attack on unions, an attack on public sector unions that are making them less effective, in the end, they’re still effective of helping protect some public sector teachers from an even larger negative pay gap.”

    While comparable college graduates have gained 155 dollars a week on teachers since 1996, most of that was at the end of the nineties, with their pay remaining flat during the 2000s.

    [Sylvia Allegretto]: “That takes us into the discussion of massive income inequality that was terrible going into the Great Recession, and seems to be much worse on this side of the Great Recession, and is certainly not being mitigated.  So, for even the luckiest among us who get college degrees, they haven’t been doing much better as of late.”


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