Sunday, February 11, 2007

PSRC's David Denholm on the Employee Free Choice Act

The Public Service Research Council is a prestigious organization, headed by David Denholm, a renowned and respected author and speaker. We at are fortunate to consider David a friend, colleague and fellow fighter for freedom.

As the debate over the Employee Free Choice Act rages for the next several weeks, we are privileged to post what David has this to say on the topic:

Some of you know of my frustration about the statements so commonly made that go something like "We're not anti-union." To me such statements lack credibility.

The underlying problem with the debate on the "Employee Free Choice Act" is that unions are dying and Congress is looking for a way to resuscitate them. There are undoubtedly political motives for this. Organized labor is one of the financial mainstays of the Democratic Party.

There is growing evidence that, other than the finances, organized labor can't really deliver. Union membership has declined to the point that labor unions no longer have the political power necessary to dictate political choices. You could see this in the 2004 Iowa caucuses. Some unions supported Howard Dean and some supported Richard Gephardt. John Kerry won. In the 2006 California Governor's race organized labor put its resources behind Phil Angelides. Arnold Schwarzenegger won rather handily.

An editorial in the February 7, 2007 Waterbury Republican-American, "Not-so-big-labor," brought this right down to the local level in what is regarded by many as a union state.

Back to, "We're not anti-union." Well, why not? Is there something so inherently good, beneficial or necessary about labor unions that we must give them the right to run roughshod over the rule of law?

So long as we pretend to accept the idea that labor unions are a good thing with statements like "We're not anti-union," legislation like the "Employee Free Choice Act" will make sense. After all, if unions are a good thing and can't succeed without a draconian, anti-democratic law like this, then the law must be a good thing, too.

Organized labor is pushing the "Employee Free Choice Act" as a means of "strengthening America's middle class." That's pure and utter nonsense. America's middle class is doing rather well.

The "middle class" is generally defined as the middle income quintile. Here's a link to a U.S. Census Bureau page on "Historical Income Tables." As you will see, in inflation adjusted dollars, the movement, albeit with some ups and downs, is upward. Between 1983 and 2005, the mean household income of the middle quintile increased from $47,487 to $57,660. That's an increase of more than 21 percent. During this time union membership as a percent of the workforce fell from 20.1 to 12.5. More importantly, on private nonagricultural payrolls it fell from 16.8 to 7.9 percent.

If there were any relationship between "strengthening America's middle class" and giving labor unions artificial respiration, wouldn't you expect these figures to be different?

There is little or no evidence that unionism is helpful. As labor economist Albert Rees says in his 1977 book "The Economics of Trade Unions," labor unions "benefit most those workers who would in any case be relatively well off, and while some of this gain may be at the expense of the owners of capital, most of it must be at the expense of consumers and the lower-paid workers.”

If the battle against the "Employee Free Choice Act" is to be won, one of the ways to do it is to shift the center of debate by putting the unions on the defensive. In other words, to admit that you are anti-union and to explain why that is in the public interest.

Let me know if I can help.


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