Richard Epstein, "The Coming Meltdown in Labor Relations"

Labor relations consists of two broad areas—unions and employment discrimination. Both areas have been stable for some time. The last major labor law reform was in 1959. The employment discrimination law dates back to 1991. The new Obama administration is, however, ramping up tough legislation in both these areas. Professor Epstein will examine three prominent proposals—the Employee Free Choice Act, The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the Paycheck Fairness Act. His somber conclusion is that, their noble titles notwithstanding, these legislative reforms make little sense in either good or bad economic times. The new legal uncertainties, and the high administrative costs, and the misaligned legal incentives associated with these proposals will reduce the gains from trade in labor markets, and resulting higher unemployment will only deepen the current downturn. Richard Epstein is James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. This talk was recorded on January 27, 2009 as part of the Chicago's Best Ideas lecture series.