Labor Unions and Charity
Drawing on two independent datasets, the author examines organized labor’s role as a benefactor for community-based charity. A population-level analysis of Michigan data indicates that union member density and union local density are positively associated with per capita donations to regional United Ways. An individual-level analysis of CPS data corroborates the Michigan findings, and in addition reveals that unionists are more likely than non-unionists to be engaged in community affairs and volunteer for charitable organizations. Unionists disproportionately volunteer to provide medical care, fire/EMS or protective services; to collect and distribute clothing, crafts or non-food goods; as coaches or referees; as musicians or other artists; as tutors or teachers; and as mentors for youth. The findings suggest that unions function in part as vehicles for collectivizing asset and volunteer resources among their members for redistribution to community-based charitable causes, and thereby reduce social inequity.