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The Contender
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That the Employee Free Choice Act of 2009 serves the best interests of the American people.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/26/2009 Category: News
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 764 times Debate No: 7982
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"As we enter the new millennium, the question is not whether we should fully reject or wholeheartedly embrace globalization. Instead the question is whether the disparate benefits and impacts of globalization can be reordered so that our trade agreements and labor law policies no longer serve to primarily benefit corporations at the expense of workers and communities in the U.S. and around the globe."

It is because the Employee Free Choice Act can answer the question that Kate Bronfenbrenner of Cornell University poses to us, that I affirm.

It is important to note, that the best interest of the American people is that which not only ensures economic stability but also freely acknowledges their constitutional and human rights. As a result, I shall focus the debate:

First: On how the EFCA eliminates unfair labor practices, creating a better working environment and improving upon the inadequacies of previous labor law.
Second: On how the EFCA promotes unionization, which strengthens the economy and increases global competitiveness.

Contention One: The EFCA promotes a better working environment by solving for the inadequacies of previous labor law.

Subpoint A: Current Labor Law is Broken.

The current process for unionization is a fundamentally flawed procedure. With no effective punitive sanctions for employers, the attempt to unionize a company is an almost futile one. Employers have various techniques which are implemented solely to demoralize and intimidate pro-union advocates, and to scare away any workers who are on the border as to what they support. Gordon Lafer of the University of Oregon writes, ""Because labor law lacks any punitive sanctions — no fines, no loss of license, no possibility of prison time — employers are free to break the law with near-total impunity. When an employer violates the law, the probability is that they won't get caught. If they do get caught, the worst sanction the NLRB can impose is for a second election. The employer wins the second election 96% of the time, so if you're an employer breaking the law – the odds to win are with you."

As a result, law breaking procedures and other coercive techniques are widespread. Kate Bronfenbrenner of Cornell University concludes that in 51% of unionization campaigns employers threaten to shut down part or all of a plants operations if the plant is unionized. Moreover, in 25% of campaigns employers illegally fire employees for supporting unionization. She furthers, "Union election win rates were significantly lower in units where plant closing threats occurred than in units without plant closing threats." It is apparent that these procedures are both widespread and serious. Lafer quantifies Bronfenbrenner's percentages, estimating that "In 2004, an estimated 15,400 employees were illegally fired, suspended, or otherwise financially penalized for supporting a union in an election context." At the point where over 15,000 individuals are severely penalized for exercising their autonomy, it is clear that the current system is broken.

Subpoint B: The Employee Free Choice Act fixes inefficiencies with the current system.

Quoting from the act itself, "Any employer who willfully or repeatedly commits any unfair labor practice [will] be subject to a civil penalty of not to exceed $20,000 for each violation." Right now the only penalty for illegal firing or suspension is a back payment of less than 3,000 dollars, so it's easy for employers to break the law. By creating a penalty close to 7 times higher, the incentive to break the law diminishes greatly. That's just a civil penalty, the price of back pay also goes up. The act continues, "if the Board finds that an employer has discriminated against an employee the Board in such order shall award the employee back pay and, in addition, 2 times that amount as liquidated damages." So they receive triple what they normally would, which helps to pay for the price incurred of losing their job, and the employer is penalized up to 20,000 dollars. Meaning that the price of breaking the law goes up a little over 10 times – from 2,750 dollars to 27,50 (ish… I don't want to do math) this is better for the employee, because there are less violations of law – and when there are, they receive adequate payment for the harm of breaking the law. The EFCA essentially eradicates unfair labor practices by the employer.

Contention Two: The EFCA promotes unionization, which strengthens the economy and increases global competitiveness.

Subpoint A: The EFCA promotes unionization.

Most estimates agree that the EFCA will increase union density by a large amount. AFL-CIO economist Sheldon Friedman estimates an increase in union density of 5%, Andy Stern, president of the SEIU estimates that union density will increase by around 10% by 2018, and Carter and Lotke support these findings. Moreover, a study by Chris Riddell of Cornell University reports in countries such as Great Britain, switching from the electoral process to the card-check lead to immense gains in union density.

Subpoint B: Unionization increases global competitiveness and strengthens the U.S. economy.

Dr. Paula Voos of Rutgers University went before the senate just last month to argue in favor of the EFCA. She writes, ""Unions…reduce turnover and [as a result] firm specific skills are retained [increasing productivity]. Another benefit is that turnover costs are lowered for employers. Since unions increase compensation, firms are incentivized to invest in new technology further increasing productivity. Unionized employers also tend to shift to higher value-added goods and services in their product mix." As a result, unions actually increase productivity. James Medoff of Harvard University, in an extensive study, concluded, "When the characteristics of workers most frequently associated with productivity differentials are held constant, unionized establishments are about 22 percent more productive than those that are not." Unions have a 22% increase on productivity, which, balances out or even overcomes the cost of higher wages.

Higher productivity leads to more money earned by the company, which benefits the stock, but also benefits the consumer because if the employer makes more money the price of goods drops. Economic Roundtable estimates that the wage increases caused by unions in Los Angeles ALONE has lead to the, "creation of 64,800 jobs and 51 billion in total sales." Because the price of goods is going down, more goods are being bought. When more goods are bought, employers can hire more employees – so instead of people losing jobs, more jobs are being created, more people can buy goods and they can buy them for a lower price.

To summarize the benefits unions have on the economy:
1)Creation of more productive firms, which generate more income for the company. A more productive company can sell goods at a cheaper price. This helps the consumer.
2)Once a company starts selling cheaper goods more people tend to buy these goods, as a result the stock goes up – helping the stock market on the whole.
3)When a company generates more income (through being more productive and more customers) they can create more unionized positions, giving more people jobs.
4)The unionized employee receives more money, increasing the United States' overall GDP.

It is because individual liberties within the workplace, and economic stability are both achieved through the EFCA that I urge you to affirm.


My partner and I negate, "Resolved: That the employee free choice act of 2009 is in the best interest of the American people.

It is necessary first, to define just what American interests are. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the % of unionized workers in America was just 16.1 million Americans in 2008. When evaluating this debate, it is important to note that benefits for these select few employees do not offset the economic harms incurred by all 310 million Americans. For every dollar lost in the American Economy, NINETEEN dollars must be earned by workers in order for the economic impacts even out.

It is for this reason that my partner and I choose solely to structure our debate on the economic ramifications of the act. We observe the following economic disadvantages to passing the Employee Free Choice Act:

First: The EFCA will harm business productivity.

, restrictive agreements negotiated through employers and employees strangle the employers grip on working hours, and production quotas. As unions acquire less hours for their members, on the whole the business suffers. These practices chokehold employers into exponentially high costs, simply due to unionization; the employer has to shell out extra money to pay for higher wages, while at the same time the employer saves less money in production costs. Robert LaLonde of the Association for the Development of Economic Research finds, "labor productivity falls by 10 percent by the second year after unionization, and by an even larger amount in our sample of plants with at least ten years of continuous data." Unionized firms are, a result, drastically less competitive than other nonunionized firms.

Second: The EFCA will skyrocket unemployment rates.

Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago writes, ""Wage increases have harmful economic effects. The union markup of wages causes firms to lower employment and output, thereby harming economic efficiency."" Economist Robert LaLonde of the Association for the Development of Economic Research concluded that, "employment fell by 18 percentage points in firms in which the union won the certification election compared to firms in which the union lost." It is important to note that Robert LaLonde and Epstein are both discussing the unemployment affect EMPIRICALLY in the UNITED STATES. Statistics from other countries (especially global organizations like the OECD, which average out data even in countries like Britain / France / Germany where unions don't have to bargain for healthcare, so the cost to employers is much lower.) As a result, data on the impact of unionization must be drawn from U.S. evidence - which is empirically shown to harm the economy.

Third: The EFCA will hurt the American consumer, by raising the price of goods.

To help offset the costs of higher wages and the impact of diminished productivity, unionized companies are forced to charge higher prices for their goods. Harvard economist James Medoff reports that unionized firms sell, on average, goods that are 22% higher in price than their nonunionized counterparts – even though the quality of those goods remains relatively static.

Fourth: The EFCA will lead to diminished innovation.

Economist Paula Voos of Rutgers university concluded that innovation was one of the most important factors in ensuring U.S. competitiveness globally. Unfortunately, unions stifle innovation. Economists Julian Betts and Michael Wilson of the University of California conclude that, "in an industry that increases 1% in union density, research
and development falls by .8%." In a global economy, newer and more efficient products are necessary to ensure economic stability. By stifling R&D through higher costs incurred, U.S. companies will fail to remain competitive on a global scale.

Heightened costs of unionization have no economic benefits. The EFCA ensures that all levels of the economy – consumers, workers and businesses – are economically harmed. Productivity losses, inflation and unemployment skyrocket under the act's jurisdiction, and it is for this reason that we urge you to negate.

As to my opponents case:


- My opponent cites a study by Kate Bronfenbrenner, which offers clear methodological flaws. Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago writes, ""In the Bronfenbrenner study she examines a random sample of elections that rests
exclusively on the evaluations of the "lead organizers" of these campaigns without any cross check to official or employer records. Her collection method of the survey data is in itself sufficient reason to discredit her results in their entirety."

- Studies by the Center of Union Facts, which use NLRB data (i.e. unbiased and complete data) find that employers only fire employees THREE percent of the time. Obviously the problem is NOT widespread if it occurs in only three percent of circumstances.

- The same problem with Bronfenbrenner applies to the Lafer study, which, again, does not rely on NLRB data. John-Paul Ferguson, MIT Graduate and labor law analyst concludes, " "ULP charges are an awkward measure of illegal activity by employers because union organizers can file them for strategic reasons even when no illegal activity has taken place. One indication of legitimacy is whether the NLRB found the charge meritorious. It only did so in approximately 7% of elections."

As a result, we see the impact of Subpoint A being minimal. It only affects 7% of unions, approximately 1million people, while hurting 310 million americans.


- This subpoint is irrelevant, as it only eliminates illegal tactics in SEVEN percent of elections.

Contention Two: Economic Benefits

- He cites a study by Harvard Economist James Medoff, however at the back of that study, Medoff runs his economic model and finds that PRODUCTIVITY could also be switched with a PRICE INCREASE and the economic model will still produce the same results. It is much likelier that price increases account for the results of the model, insofar as empirical examples prove it. 1/2 of the cost of every car GM creates is accounted for through union pension plans.

- The only remaining economic evidence is in sales and jobs, but this data relies on the price of goods going down - which it doesn't. Moreover, that study DOES NOT account for the jobs LOST because of unions, or sales diminished because of unions, just their impact. As is empirically shown, while higher wages may lead to an increase in jobs in some companies, the unionized company's sales and employment rates drop DRAMATICALLY (18% decreased employment according to LaLonde, and with the price of goods skyrocketing 22% - we can see a gigantic amount of sales being lost.

- Three of the impacts are empirically negated (Productivity, more jobs, and cheaper goods.) The only benefit of unions is the increase in GDP, which is clearly offset by a loss of jobs, productivity, competitiveness and increases in prices.

To summarize the impacts:

POLITICS: The political impacts are not a big deal, insofar as they only affect 1/310th of all Americans. Instead, this debate is purely economic.

ECONOMICS: The Con gives you empirical data proving the following impacts of unionization:

1) Reduced Productivity
2) Reduced Employment
3) Higher Prices
4) Reduced Innovation

All four of these impacts combine to outline a dramatic decrease in unionized firm competitiveness. This decrease can be attributed to the recent decline in unionization. Henry Farber of Princeton University writes, "The decline in union membership rates was due primarily to changes in the economic environment that made union representation of less value to workers and more costly to employers."

So it is because unions help 1/310 of Americans, but hurt all 310million, that I urge you to negate.
Debate Round No. 1


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Debate Round No. 2


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Debate Round No. 3
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