An Empirical Assessment of the Employee Free Choice Act: The Economic Implications

45 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2009

See all articles by Anne Layne-Farrar

Anne Layne-Farrar

Charles River Associates; Northwestern University

Date Written: March 3, 2009


The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which is pending before the US Congress, would provide for union representation when an employee majority has signed union authorization cards and would create a system of mandatory arbitration if a collective bargaining agreement is not reached approximately 130 days after a union is newly certified. I critically assess the arguments presented for passing EFCA and consider the likely unintended consequences it will generate, should it be passed. I find that while card checks could be expected to increase union membership as hoped by EFCA proponents, EFCA is unlikely to achieve its main goal of improving social welfare, which should take into account possible consequences not only for union members but for all individuals. In particular, my quantitative analysis indicates that passing EFCA would likely increase the US unemployment rate and decrease US job creation substantially. The precise effect on unemployment will depend on the degree to which EFCA increases union density, but for every 3 percentage points gained in union membership through card checks and mandatory arbitration, the following year's unemployment rate is predicted to increase by 1 percentage point and job creation is predicted to fall by around 1.5 million jobs. Thus, if EFCA passed today and resulted in an increase in unionization from the current rate of about 12% to 15%, then unionized workers would increase from 15.5 to 19.6 million while unemployment a year from now would rise by 1.5 million, to 10.4 million. If EFCA were to increase the percentage of private sector union membership by between 5 and 10 percentage points, as some have suggested, my analysis indicates that unemployment would increase by 2.3 to 5.4 million in the following year and the unemployment rate would increase by 1.5 to 3.5 percentage points in the following year.

Keywords: EFCA, unions, employment

JEL Classification: J53, J58

Suggested Citation

Layne-Farrar, Anne, An Empirical Assessment of the Employee Free Choice Act: The Economic Implications (March 3, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Anne Layne-Farrar (Contact Author)

Charles River Associates ( email )

1 South Wacker Drive
Suite 3400
Chicago, IL 60606
United States
312-377-9238 (Phone)


Northwestern University ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

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