As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Economists For A Stronger Economy

In addition to ensuring that homeowners facing foreclosure can't have the same tools in a bankruptcy court that the obscenely wealthy can, Blue Dogs think fair union organizing is "a piece of junk." The argument goes that the Employee Free Choice Act would cripple businesses with burdensome labor costs. Square that with these economic leaders arguing that the Employee Free Choice Act would strengthen both our economy and our democracy:

Although its collapse has dominated recent media coverage, the financial sector is not the only segment of the U.S. economy running into serious trouble. The institutions that govern the labor market have also failed, producing the unusual and unhealthy situation in which hourly compensation for American workers has stagnated even as their productivity soared.

Indeed, from 2000 to 2007, the income of the median working-age household fell by $2,000 – an unprecedented decline. In that time, virtually all of the nation’s economic growth went to a small number of wealthy Americans. An important reason for the shift from broadly-shared prosperity to growing inequality is the erosion of workers’ ability to form unions and bargain collectively.

A natural response of workers unable to improve their economic situation is to form unions to negotiate a fair share of the
economy, and that desire is borne out by recent surveys. Millions of American workers – more than half of non-managers – have said they want a union at their work place. Yet only 7.5% of private sector workers are now represented by a union. And in all of 2007, fewer than 60,000 workers won union status through government-sanctioned elections. What explains this disconnect?

The problem is that the election process overseen by the National Labor Relations Board has become drawn out and acrimonious, with management campaigning fiercely to deter unionization, sometimes to the extent of violating labor laws. Union sympathizers are routinely threatened or even fired, and they have little effective recourse under the law. Even when workers overcome this pressure and vote for a union, they are unable to obtain contracts one-third of the time due to management resistance.

To remedy this situation, the Congress is considering the Employee Free Choice Act. This act would accomplish three things:
It would give workers the choice of using majority sign-up-- a simple, established procedure in which workers sign cards to indicate their support for a union – or staging an NLRB election; it triples damages for employers who fire union supporters or break other labor laws; and it creates a process to ensure that newly unionized employees have a fair shot at obtaining a first contract by calling for arbitration after 120 days of unsuccessful bargaining [...]

The Employee Free Choice Act is not a panacea, but it would restore some balance to our labor markets. As economists, we believe this is a critically important step in rebuilding our economy and strengthening our democracy by enhancing the voice of working people in the workplace.

As Matt Yglesias notes, there are a wide cross-section of economists who signed on to this letter, including at least one conservative. The argument that excessive unionization will wreck the economy is bogus. Indeed it will help save the economy by raising wages and increasing the purchasing power of workers.

Support the Employee Free Choice Act and tell your Blue Dog Congressmen to do the same.

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