This week, Dr Anne Layne-Farrar, an economist with the Law and Economics Consulting Group, published a new study in which she analyzes the likely economic effects of the so-called Employee Free Choice Act if it were to be enacted, especially on employment. EFCA would replace secret ballots in union organizing elections with a process known as card check, whereby union organizers ask employees to sign union cards out in public, thus exposing workers to high-pressure tactics which secret ballots are designed to avoid. Labor unions see this as a way to revive their declining number. The summary of Layne-Farrar’s findings includes:
[P]assing EFCA would likely increase the US unemployment rate and decrease US job creation substantially. The precise effect on unemployment will depend on the degree to which EFCA increases union density, but for every 3 percentage points gained in union membership through card checks and mandatory arbitration, the following year’s unemployment rate is predicted to increase by 1 percentage point and job creation is predicted to fall by around 1.5 million jobs. Thus, if EFCA passed today and resulted in an increase in unionization from the current rate of about 12% to 15%, then unionized workers would increase from 15.5 to 19.6 million while unemployment a year from now would rise by 1.5 million, to 10.4 million. If EFCA were to increase the percentage of private sector union membership by between 5 and 10 percentage points, as some have suggested, my analysis indicates that unemployment would increase by 2.3 to 5.4 million in the following year and the unemployment rate would increase by 1.5 to 3.5 percentage points in the following year.
As Layne-Farrar explained in a press conference call today, she analyzed the experience of Canada with both card check and secret ballots. Union organizing in Canada is set at the provincial, rather than federal level, so different provicial policies allow for contrast. As she explained, several provinces have moved from card check to secret ballots, while one went the other way. To control for other factors, she said she did a regression going back 22 years.
Study available for download here.
For more on card check, see here.