Effect of Unions
By David Henderson
The discussion of the misnamed Employee Freedom of Choice Act is taking place at the local level as well as nationally. In our local newspaper, Chris Fitz wrote a pro-EFCA letter to which I responded. My response is below:
“Let’s give him a fair trial and then hang him.” That’s the essence of what Chris Fitz wrote in his May 8 letter endorsing the misnamed Employee Freedom of Choice Act (EFCA). Fitz says he wants the Board of Supervisors to have a “full public discussion” of the federal proposal to change the law on unions. Once the board has discussed it, he writes, it can endorse EFCA. What kind of discussion is that? If everyone knows at the beginning how the discussion will turn out, it’s not much of a discussion.
So let me start a real discussion. Fitz claims that the added power that EFCA would give to unions would “build wages and benefits among workers.” But many economists who have studied the monopoly power of unions would disagree. Economists agree that unions use their monopoly power to increase wages. But at these higher wages, employers employ fewer people. The workers who lose their jobs or don’t get hired in the first place move to the nonunion sector, where the increased supply causes nonunion wages to fall.
Most of the gains of union workers are at the expense of nonunion workers.
For more on the union wage premium, see Morgan Reynolds, “Labor Unions,” and the references therein.