Unions today are enjoying their highest popularity rates in half a century—especially among young workers, who face high levels of economic anxiety and stress about affordable living. When you examine the stories of workers whose lives have been changed by a good union job, it’s easy to see why. Even though labor law stacks the deck against workers trying to unionize, unions are workers’ most powerful tool to advocate for themselves and their colleagues. Unions raise workers’ wages and benefits, increase job stability, offer training programs to boost skills, and push for critical safety improvements. Simply put, labor law must make it easier for workers to join a union because unions empower workers with limited resources to grow the wealth they need to retire, fund their children’s education, or buy a home.

No one understands the power of unions quite like Raquell Rivera, a Michigan resident who went from living in a homeless shelter to owning her own home in the span of four years. Raquell recently told me that after leaving home at age 19 due to unsafe living conditions, she spent two years couch-surfing and living in youth shelters. One day, she saw an advertisement on Facebook that prompted her to apply for a pre-apprenticeship program offered by Michigan Women in Skilled Trades (WIST). Today, she’s a journeywoman carpenter and a proud member of Carpenters Local 1004. Last November, she told us she bought her first house.

New research shows that going union boosts household wealth for workers and their families. The median union household holds $338,482 in wealth—1.7 times the wealth of median nonunion households. The gains are even higher among workers of color, with Black union households holding 2.7 times as much wealth as nonunion households, while Hispanic and other non-White households hold over three times as much as their nonunion counterparts. This means that union membership not only benefits workers across demographic groups—it also narrows the racial wealth gap. It narrows the wealth gap between workers with and without college degrees, too, which is especially important since the gap remains wide for workers of color regardless of whether or not they have the opportunity to earn a college degree.

Even though construction offers a pathway to the middle class for many workers without college degrees—complete with good pay and union protections—only 4 percent of workers in the construction trades are women. Pre-apprenticeship programs that partner with unions, like the one Raquell completed, connect workers with jobs and can offer women and workers from other underrepresented communities the opportunity to build out the skills they need to learn a trade and join a union.

Workers of all races and ethnicities are much more likely to own their own homes if they join a union. In fact, 71 percent of all union families own a home. Though millions of workers struggle with high rent and housing instability, the better wages earned by union members make it easier to afford a home—and home ownership is a key means of building wealth.

It’s no wonder labor unions have achieved some of their highest approval ratings in decades: They boost wages and wealth, keeping workers safer and more secure on the job. Workers from Starbucks Workers United to the Teamsters at UPS to the UAW have notched significant victories over the last year. Even the president joined a picket line for the first time in history. And the promise of a good union job is drawing interest from more young workers like Raquell.

On the flip side, America’s broken labor laws mean workers without access to a union continue to face major obstacles at work. Federal labor law stacks the deck in favor of corporations. Corporations that illegally fire unionizing workers suffer limited legal penalties for union-busting, and they exploit a range of tactics both legal and illegal in their efforts to prevent unions from organizing or reaching a first contract. Lawmakers in Congress have options on the table to strengthen workers’ organizing rights, including passing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act and preventing corporations from deducting union-busting costs from their taxes.

The odds are stacked against workers all too often. Workers like Raquell need unions to help them build power and support themselves and their families. America’s broken labor laws have allowed corporations to undermine unions, but workers are still taking the risk to organize and join them—because they know union membership remains one of the best ways to boost their earnings, learn new skills, and build lasting wealth for their families.