Prominent Economists Urge Passage of Pro-union Law


More than three dozen prominent economists, including a handful of Nobel Laureates, this week signed a joint statement urging passage of the Employee Free Choice Act as an effective measure to boost middle-class living standards and revive the worsening economy.

The statement noted that joining unions is a 'natural response' by workers to stagnating wages and a weakened economy. Recent polls show that tens of millions of non-managerial workers would like to see a union in their workplace, but less than eight percent of private sector workers are union members.

Pro-union workers face often illegal recriminations and threats from employers on a large scale, which explains the discrepancy between the desire for unions and the low rate of unionization, the statement pointed out.

Labor laws designed to protect workers from illegal harassment by anti-union employers are weakly enforced by federal agencies and the process of certifying a union can be delayed by employers for years using bureaucratic red tape. Especially under the Bush administration, agencies like the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) sided with employers most often or failed to penalize scofflaw employers.

Passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), likely to be introduced in Congress later this year, will change this situation, the economists said. It would revise labor law to even the playing field. Under this law, workers will have a choice between using a majority sign-up process or an NLRB election to certify their union.

The law would impose stiffer penalties on employers who violate the law, providing them with incentive to treat workers fairly.

EFCA would also eliminate costly federal procedures for unionization by speeding up the process of mediation and arbitration between workers and employers once a union is certified.

The statement further added, 'A rising tide lifts all boats only when labor and management bargain on relatively equal terms. In recent decades, most bargaining power has resided with management. The current recession will further weaken the ability of workers to bargain individually. More than ever, workers will need to act together.'

“Creating good union jobs is key to our economic recovery because it strengthens our middle class,” said Mike Fishman, president of Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, based in New York. “The Employee Free Choice Act would break down the wall that has stopped millions of workers from joining unions, improving their lives and giving our economy the boost it needs.”

The statement by the leading economists was published in the Washington Post, Feb. 25.