The 'Free Choice' Act Is Anything But

The recent news that Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter has become a member of the Democratic caucus has given new life to legislation that many thought had been put to rest for this Congress -- the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

Last year, I wrote on these pages that I was opposed to this bill because it would eliminate secret ballots in union organizing elections. However, the bill has an additional feature that isn't often mentioned but that is just as troublesome -- compulsory arbitration.

This feature would give the government the power to step into labor disputes where employers and labor leaders cannot reach an agreement and compel both sides to accept a contract. Compulsory arbitration is bound to trigger the law of unintended consequences.

Currently, labor law maintains a careful balance between the rights of businesses, unions and individual employees. While bargaining power differs depending on individual circumstances, the rights of the parties are well balanced. When a union and a business enter negotiations, current law requires that both sides bargain "in good faith."

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Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. More

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism, an economics blog that was recently published in book form by Simon and Schuster. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. He is also on Twitter.

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