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Reich: Enact Employee Free Choice Quickly to Help the Economy

Cross-posted from the AFL-CIO Now Blog.

Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has some advice for those looking for answers about how to make our economy work for everyone: restore the freedom to form unions, and give workers the bargaining power they need to improve their own lives.

In a recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, "The Union Way Up," Reich says the nation can get out of our economic slump and on the road to a sustainable economy by passing the Employee Free Choice Act:

The sooner it’s enacted, the better–for U.S. workers and for the U.S. economy…making it easier for all Americans to form unions would give the middle class the bargaining power it needs for better wages and benefits. And a strong and prosperous middle class is necessary if our economy is to succeed.

Looking to the root of our economic problems, Reich says that the crises in debt, health care, housing and jobs can be traced to a shrinking middle class, with too little economic security and purchasing power. And while many public policies can work around the edges, our country’s history shows that the health of the economy is improved by making it possible for workers to form unions and bargain for a better life.

The way to get the economy back on track is to boost the purchasing power of the middle class. One major way to do this is to expand the percentage of working Americans in unions…Unions matter in this equation. According to the Department of Labor, workers in unions earn 30% higher wages—taking home $863 a week, compared with $663 for the typical nonunion worker—and are 59% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance than their nonunion counterparts.

Reich says that working families "aren’t asking for a bailout or a handout," but they need, and deserve, to have a share of the prosperity they’re creating. They need a level playing field and the freedom to bargain for a better life.

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