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ANALYSIS: Bargaining Brought Huge Raises to Union Workers in Q4

March 28, 2022, 3:29 PM

Unionized employers made massive wage-based concessions to labor in contract negotiations in fourth-quarter 2021, agreeing to provide pay raises of a scope not seen in collective bargaining in at least 15 years, according to Bloomberg Law’s latest Quarterly Union Wage Data report.

First-year wage increases in union contracts ratified in the fourth quarter averaged 4.7%, up from 3.9% in Q3 and 3.1% in Q2. This is the first time since at least 2007, when Bloomberg Law began tracking quarter-by-quarter wage increases, that union-negotiated wage raises have averaged more than 4% in a single quarter.

When lump-sum amounts—such as signing bonuses and other one-time payouts—are added to the annual pay increases, the Q4 figures are even more staggering. Unions negotiated a 5.8% average first-year raise with lump sums factored in, up from 4.6% in Q3 and 3.5% in Q2.

These figures show that as 2021 progressed, labor’s growing strength extended beyond high-visibility work stoppages to the high-stakes arena of closed-door collective bargaining sessions.

The overall result of this new negotiating power was a year that saw union-bargained wages bounce back—and then some—since pandemic-riven 2020. The average first-year wage increase for contracts settled in 2021 was 3.7% without lump sums and 4.3% with lump sums, both the highest yearly averages since 2002 (3.9% and 4.3%, respectively).

Labor’s success was driven by collective bargaining gains across all three industry sectors, as first-year wage increases in contracts ratified in 2021 rose by an average of 4.3% in nonmanufacturing (up from 3.5% in 2020), 3.7% in manufacturing (up from 3.1% in 2020), and 2.9% in government (up from 2.5% in 2020).

The averages in the report are based on calculations from Bloomberg Law’s Settlement Summaries database. To date, the database has compiled wage and benefits information on 820 CBAs ratified in 2021, as reported by Bloomberg, other news media, and industry and labor publications.

Bloomberg Law subscribers can access, search, and run reports from the Settlement Summaries database by using our Labor PLUS: Organizing and Bargaining Data resource.

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