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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Closing a Malevolent Circle: The Employee Free Choice Act

The Economic Irrelevance of Unions Does Not Preclude Their Political Pull

In 2006, 7.4 percent of American private-sector workers were unionized. That figure has fallen every year since 1955, when it was close to 35 percent. Despite the unjustifiable privileges granted to private-sector unions by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), they are almost economically irrelevant. But they are not politically irrelevant. Collectively unions spend at least $5 billion on direct and indirect political advocacy every year, even more in election years. Their support was a major factor enabling the Democrats to capture control of Congress last November.

On March 1, with the help of 13 Republicans, 183 Democrats in the House of Representatives voted to pay the unions back by making it much easier for them to capture union-free workers as dues and fee payers. In political exchange one capture may deserve another, but at least the capture of Congress was the result of secret-ballot voting across the country. The House bill would let unions capture union-free workers without those workers having access to any ballot box. It is cynically called the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

This article will be posted in full in January 2008.

  • Charles Baird┬áis a professor of economics emeritus at California State University at East Bay.

    He specializes in the law and economics of labor relations, a subject on which he has published several articles in refereed journals and numerous shorter pieces with FEE.