Employee Free Choice on the move

Original source: Thanks to a strong pro-worker majority in Congress, the support of President Obama and a unified movement of union members and grassroots allies, the Employee Free Choice Act is closer to becoming a reality than ever.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz is the latest to throw his support behind the bill. Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia University, was one of 38 leading American economists who endorsed the bill last week.

Annie Hill, CWA executive vice president, says:

If we want to turn around our economy, if we want to counteract some of the worst income inequality our nation has seen, Employee Free Choice is the way to do it. Despite unsourced rumors in the press, we are confident that Senate Democrats, led by Harry Reid, are going to pass the Employee Free Choice Act and make real bargaining rights a reality for millions of American workers.



With waves of misconceptions coming from the Chamber of Commerce and corporate front groups, disseminated by reflexively anti-union pundits like Mickey Kaus, and trickling into the language and themes of credulous journalists, it’s important to cut through the spin and talk about what the Employee Free Choice Act actually does.

Last weekend, Kaus attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and apparently was quite taken with Richard Epstein, a management lawyer and fellow at the far-right Hoover Institute who’s built a one-man industry around claiming the Employee Free Choice Act is unconstitutional. (University of California-Berkeley labor history professor David Brody rebuts Epstein’s distortions here.)

Taking Epstein at his word, Kaus wrote a long-winded blog making many erroneous assertions based on nothing but Epstein’s word. Kaus touts these scary themes, but neglects to mention:

The right of workers to seek contract arbitration under the Employee Free Choice Act is meant to provide an incentive for companies to bargain in good faith. It would not affect all, or even most, employers—only those who fail to agree on a contract. Not only do many successful U.S. companies thrive with unions, but the wage, health care and pension improvement for union members help lift standards of living across the economy. Many of America’s top economists agree that wider access to collective bargaining will be a help, not a hindrance, to the economy. The exemptions for small businesses that already exist under the National Labor Relations Act would remain in place under the Employee Free Choice Act.

Kaus seems to be taking the word of corporate front groups whose sudden concern for workers’ rights is a cover for panic about the legislation and its ability to ensure that workers can bargain for a fair share of the prosperity they create.

Despite the flood of careless misinformation and intentional falsehoods about the freedom of workers to form unions, the Employee Free Choice Act has earned broad support and is likely to be passed by Congress and signed into law by Obama. The corporate hacks and anti-union groups are spending millions (an estimated $72 million in 2008 alone, reports The Hill) in a losing battle against the bill.