All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Mieke Beth Thomeer

Advisory Committee Members

Peter A Jones

Joseph D Wolfe

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2022

Degree Name by School

Master of Science (MS) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

The benefits of labor unions have not gone unstudied. Individuals in labor unions have better access to lower cost/more substantial health insurance plans, higher quality pension plans, and better wages leading to increased lifetime earnings. Even though many of these benefits create important pathways that could lead to better health, unions have been paid little attention in health literature. Additionally, in the modern workplace Mothers are offered lower starting salaries, are perceived as less competent, and face a penalty regarding hiring, promotion, and workplace educational opportunities. Compared to men, women with children see an income gap 20 cents wider than their childless women counterparts. Workplace discrimination and lower income have been shown to negatively impact health, but union membership could potentially offset this. Using a social determinants of health framework, this thesis investigates the relationship between long-term union membership and midlife health and further shows how this relationship differs based on gender and motherhood status. Using 28 waves of data (N=6,967) from The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, this study creates a lifetime “union tenure” variable and tests its relationship to an individual’s physical and mental health at midlife. Findings suggest that long-term union membership is associated with better physical health in the full sample, but for women, the health benefit associated with union tenure is dependent on them being a mother. These findings suggest that unions can play iv a key role in addressing midlife health disparities. Individuals are already looking to unionization as a way to address safety concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, but this study shows that labor unions may also be further used as a tool to offset the wage disparities and discrimination currently faced by mothers in the modern workplace.

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