Leading economists: Employee Free Choice key to rebuilding economy

Original source: In a statement delivered today to Capitol Hill and published as a full-page advertisement in The Washington Post, more than three dozen of the nation’s top economists call on Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act to help restore an economy that works for everyone, built on a sustainable, wage-based growth.

The statement, signed by 39 of America’s top economists, including two Nobel Prize winners, points to the failure of U.S. labor laws to protect employees’ freedom to form a union and bargain as a major factor in our economic crisis. The statement says in part:

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.

These economists, representing respected universities and policy institutions from across the nation, point to the corporate-dominated system for forming unions—and the coercion and anti-union campaigning by management—as the causes for declining wages and a gravely weakened economy.

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.

Although current headlines are dominated by the crises in the stock market and the financial sector, working families have been struggling for years under the weight of an unbalanced economy. These economists say that restoring bargaining power and ensuring working people have a voice in their workplace, and in their health care, pensions and wages, is critical to rebuilding our economy.

James K. Galbraith of the University of Texas, one of the economists who has signed on, says the freedom to form unions and bargain has many benefits for the economy and the country.

I support the Employee Free Choice Act for two reasons. First, it levels the playing field after a generation of anti-union policies, and in a world where far more workers are in decentralized, hard-to-organize workplaces than was true a generation back. Second, unions are a proven ally of progress, not only in politics but also in economics: unionized workforces promote technical change and productivity growth, because they make it possible to distribute more fairly and less brutally the costs of change.

You can view the ad as it ran in today’s Washington Post here. It includes a full list of the prominent economists who have signed on.