Lawmakers Stand with Workers on Free Choice

Reps. Harrell, Luebke speak on behalf of workers

(Picture) Reps. Ty Harrell and Paul Luebke speak at General Assembly

Rep. Ty Harrell (front) and Rep. Paul Luebke speak about importance of unions to N.C. economy at a press conference on March 10, 2009.

North Carolina Representatives Ty Harrell and Paul Luebke joined John Quinterno of the N.C. Budget and Tax Center for a press conference on the effects of the economic crisis and how union membership lifts up working people and communities.

Reps. Harrell and Luebke presented a joint statement by some three dozen of the nation’s leading economists, making the case that restoring Americans’ right to bargain for their fair share of the economic pie, through passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, is essential to rebuilding the economy. The Act, introduced into the House of Representatives and the Senate today, protects workers’ choice to join a union free from employer coercion and intimidation, and stiffens penalties against employers who break the law.

“The trouble with our economy is that workers do not have the financial resources they need as taxpayers and consumers,” says Rep. Paul Luebke. “Unions, bringing better wages and benefits, can help jumpstart the economy by strengthening our workers’ purchasing power.”

(Picture) Employee Free Choice ActNew report: Unions are Good for North Carolina’s Economy

The event coincided with the release of a new report by the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF) that shows that a modest increase in unionization rates would help restore the broken link between productivity and wage gains, pumping tens of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy.

“Working families everywhere have been hit hard by the economic crisis,” says Rep. Harrell. “Workers who have the freedom to form unions and bargain for job security and decent benefits can stand up to corporations only interested in lining their pockets on Wall Street.”

The CAPAF report for North Carolina shows, among other data, that:

  • North Carolina workers that join a union will earn 8.0 percent more – or $1.46 more per hour in 2008 dollars – than their otherwise identical non-union counterparts.
  • If North Carolina’s workers were rewarded for 100 percent of their increases in labor productivity between 1980 and 2008 – as they were during the middle part of the 20th century – average wages would be $24.04 per hour – 32.1 percent higher than the average real wage in 2008.
  • If 5 percent more of North Carolina’s workers were union members, $483 million would be pumped into the state’s economy.

John Quinterno of the N.C. State Budget and Tax Center, explained, “Unions play a powerful role in turning economic growth into rising living standards for the working men and women who fuel that growth. By ensuring that the bakers of an expanding economic pie receive a fair slice, unions help increase the incomes and living standards of workers and their families. Rising incomes, in turn, lead to greater consumer demand and contribute to more robust and sustainable economic activity.

Check out an interactive map with more data on the impact of greater unionization on North Carolina’s economy.

A copy of the CAPAF report for North Carolina is available here.