Today, House conservatives held a hearing to discuss proposals for an economic stimulus package, with testimony from former governor and CEO Mitt Romney, among others. While most of the hearing focused on how to best cut taxes for corporations, Romney used some time during his opening statement to take a swipe at the Employee Free Choice Act:
And there is one very bad idea that is being promoted by a special interest group. It is an idea that would have devastating impact on the economy—short term and long term. It would lead investors to send their funds elsewhere, businesses to expand elsewhere and jobs to relocate elsewhere. It is the plan to virtually impose unions on all small, medium and large businesses by removing the right of workers to vote by secret ballot. Card check is a very bad idea under any circumstances. In these circumstances, it would be calamitous.
As Michael Whitney laid out at the SEIU blog, “Business leaders and CEOs are developing a new strategy to combat the Employee Free Choice Act: threaten to take jobs overseas and divest from America.” Romney’s comment certainly falls into that category.
Fearmongering rhetoric aside, the Employee Free Choice Act would actually make the economy work for everyone, instead of only those at the top. According to estimates by the Economic Policy Institute, if 5 million service workers join unions:
- 5 million workers would get a 22 percent raise on average, or an additional $7,000 a year.
- $34 billion in total new wages would flow into the economy.
- 900,000 jobs would be lifted above the poverty wage for a family of four.
- Between 1.8 million and 3 million dependent children would share in these benefits.
But Employee Free Choice is not only about workers receiving better wages and benefits. Stronger unions and a more secure workforce lead to a more productive economy. For example, one-third of all American workers joined unions between 1947 and the early 1970s, and in those years, “median family income more than doubled, productivity grew 2.9 percent a year, [and] America’s economic output nearly tripled.”
If Romney considers livable wages, higher productivity, and more economic output “devastating,” then maybe some devastation is in order.
Yglesias takes on the “conservative claim that making it easier for workers to form unions will cripple the economy” by looking at international union density stats.