Start by defeating job-killing measures such as card-check

Jobs. They’re the heart of our economic engine, transforming to meet the new realities of a changing global marketplace. They’re also a trusted barometer of economic health, and judging by employment figures, our economy remains far from healthy.

The U.S. economy shed 345,000 jobs in the month of May. More than 2.5 million Americans have lost their jobs this year alone, with a total of 5.7 million jobs lost since the recession began in December 2007.

The unemployment rate is 9.4 percent, its highest level in more than 25 years. It’s also 1.4 percent higher than the Obama administration forecasted as the unemployment peak in its urgent push to pass a nearly trillion-dollar economic stimulus package that — to date — hasn’t delivered the jobs that were promised.

It’s clear that America needs an economic policy that will create jobs. And it’s even clearer that we don’t need policies that will hamper innovation or make it harder for American businesses, large and small, to keep and create new jobs.

That’s why the card-check plan — euphemistically dubbed the Employee Free Choice Act, although it offers employees anything but — is exactly the wrong elixir for what ails our economy.

In March, Dr. Anne Layne-Farrar, an economist with the non-partisan firm LECG Consulting, released an analysis of the card-check plan. Her study used Canadian economic experiences to predict the impact of card-check legislation on the American economy. Canada has seen similar shifts in union certification and arbitration policies as those proposed in the card-check plan, allowing for a compelling comparison to the potential consequences for the U.S. economy if this undemocratic plan were to become law.

“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,” Dr. Layne-Farrar found.

There are obvious reasons why card-check would cost our economy jobs. Unfortunately, these economic realities are being ignored by the special-interest groups standing behind the legislation. Still, any serious discussion about job creation and economic growth needs to consider what’s at stake.

Although the term “card check” has come to represent the entire proposal, it refers specifically to the most infamous provision contained in the so-called Employee Free Choice Act — the union certification scheme that replaces secret-ballot elections with a public sign-up process.

These card-check sign-ups would become the norm for union organizing, putting workers in the middle of a very public tug-of-war between those who wish to organize and those who don’t. A worker’s position would be known to all based on the decision to sign or not sign the union authorization card.

Workers could be subject to intimidation, public pressure, and even coercion under the public sign-up process envisioned by card-check. Privacy would no longer exist in workplace-organizing votes.

And what happens after the cards are signed? In many instances, workers and employers would see a truncated contract negotiation followed by a virtual federal takeover of the workplace.

EFCA calls for binding interest arbitration, an inside-the-Beltway term for forced government contracts. An arbitrator — perhaps some nameless, faceless federal bureaucrat — would be empowered to unilaterally dictate contract terms if a union and employer cannot reach agreement within 120 days.

This government arbitrator would decide everything from wages, hours, and benefits to opportunities for promotions and the use of subcontractors. If workers get a raw deal, that’s just too bad. If the contract would put the employer out of business and eliminate those jobs entirely, again, that’s just the way it is.

To recap, this is a proposal that could organize workers against their wishes and impose a contract that neither workers nor management approved. Its reach could extend to businesses as small as a dozen workers or fewer, driving up the cost and complexity of doing business.

If the question is how to keep and create jobs in this country, the answer is to start by rejecting policies that would destroy them.

McKeon is a member of the House Education and Labor Committee.