Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Gallup: Majority Support Employee Free Choice Act

The latest Gallup Poll shows that 53 percent of respondents favor a new law that would "make it easier for labor unions to organize workers" versus 39 percent of respondents who oppose such a law. This is amazing support considering the efforts big business is taking to fight it.

Citibank, BOA, Wal-Mart, Burger King, and a couple hundred other U.S. Chamber of Commerce companies are prepared to spend $200 million on advertising and lobbying to block the Employee Free Choice Act. They're also saying some pretty strange things in the process, according to economist Dean Baker.
Recently, they have sought to promote the argument that unions lead to higher unemployment. To help push this case they have been circulating a study that examines differences in unionization rates and unemployment among Canadian provinces. This study purports to find that a 3 percentage point increase in unionization rates leads to a 1 percentage point increase in unemployment. Based on this study, the opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act argue that any resulting increase in unionization will cost millions of jobs.
This propaganda is actually being pushed by "something called the Alliance to Save Main Street Jobs" — an alliance that happens to include that bastion of "Main Street," the U.S. Chamber of Commerce."

Baker questions their reasoning:
Of course the immediate response might be to ask, if this study's findings are accurate, why Canada's unemployment rate isn't 7 percentage points higher than the U.S. rate? Canada's unionization rate is about 20 percentage points higher than in the U.S., yet its unemployment rate is somewhat lower.
He also goes on to point out that there's a large body of research on this topic, and the most recent research finds no link between unemployment and unionization rates.
In 2006, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) did an exhaustive analysis of the research on this topic and concluded that there was no link between unionization rates and unemployment. It is easy to find examples of countries with very high unionization rates and low levels of unemployment. For example Norway and Denmark have unionization rates near 80 percent. Before the current crisis their unemployment rate was under 3.0 percent.

Of course we don't have to go overseas to prove the case that unions don't lead to unemployment. If we go back 40 years, the unionization rate was over 30 percent. Presently, it is just over 12 percent. In the 60s, the unemployment rate fell as low as 3.0 percent and was below 5.0 percent for most of the decade.
Unions don't lead to higher unemployment, but the act of unionizing can lead to firings. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, "our estimates suggest that almost one-in-five union organizers or activists can expect to be fired as a result of their activities in a union election campaign. Since 2000, illegal firings have marred over one-in-four NLRB-sponsored union elections, reaching 30 percent of elections in 2007."

That's why we need to pass the EFCA. It would strengthen penalties for companies that coerce or intimidate employees when they try to form a union, but more importantly, it would help revive America's middle class. And that's what scares corporate America. They want all the profits for themselves.

(To learn more about the EFCA, read Citizen K's excellent post on the subject. His money quote: "Passing EFCA is not only an important step for unions and employees who want to unionize, it's an important step for anyone with a job.")


JollyRoger said...

So far, the corporations and their MSM handmaidens aren't getting the job done. Soon there will have to be some story about Osama using Saddam's bank accounts to finance support for EFCA.

Kathy said...

Jolly, I don't doubt that for one minute. They'll stoop to any lie to get their way.

abi said...

The unions-cost-jobs argument is silly. It's no coincidence that wages and salaries (and as you point out, not just union wages and salaries) have flattened in the decades since unions have weakened.

But as I said in my long-winded post, I'd like to see EFCA pass without the card-check provision. Card-check seems to me to be a winning-through-intimidation tactic. I don't want to see workers intimidated by either side.

Kathy said...

Abi, I understand your concerns, but I'm not convinced financial penalties will be enough of a deterrent to stop employer intimidation (as I commented under your post). Card-check requires both sides to come to agreement within 90 days or else go to arbitration, at which point they have another 30 days before the arbitrator ends up making the decision, which is then binding on both sides for 2 years.