Top 10 Stories of 2009 #4: The best research money can buy

Today we continue our series on the Top 10 Stories of 2009 here at Facing South. You can see numbers 6 to 10 here, here, here, here and here. And coming in at #4 ...

Anne Layne-Farrar.jpgRemember when workers' rights and the Employee Free Choice Act was at the top of Obama and the Democrats' agenda? Yeah, I hardly can either.

Yet in the spring, labor was hopeful -- and the Chamber of Commerce fearful -- that the landmark legislation that would make it easier for employees to join a union would be law by year's end.

But then in March, TV and other media outlets across the country began quoting "research" claiming to prove that the EFCA would throw thousands of people out of work -- a scary prospect in the midst of economic recession.

Their source? A study published on March 5 titled "An Empirical Assessment of the Employee Free Choice Act: The Economic Implications," which argued that the EFCA would cause 600,000 people to lose work. The author was one Anne Layne-Farrar, an economist at corporate consulting firm LECG.

CBS, MSNBC and The Wall Street Journal and other media all pointed to the report, describing Layne-Farrar as a "noted economist" of a "non-partisan" research group. Fox News got especially excited, quoting it's "finding" that the EFCA "would result in an increase in the unemployment rate of around 1 and a half to 3 percentage points."

What Fox and many of the others didn't mention -- but Facing South revealed -- is that the study was paid-for piece of contract research for a new outfit called The Alliance for Main Street Jobs. And who are these nice-sounding people? The very corporate trade groups that have been lobbying to defeat the EFCA.

As we showed, the Alliance:

[I]s chaired by HR Policy Association and includes the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the Associated Builders and Contractors, The International Council of Shopping Centers, the Real Estate Roundtable, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Sounds like something you'd want to mention in covering the study. But as we found, media outlets continued to report Layne-Farrar's "study" as a piece of objective, disinterested scholarship.

On top of that, we were the first to reveal that the study itself was based on flimsy evidence: Layne-Farrar based her entire projections on the experience of just three provinces in Canada up to three decades ago.

Seems like the media could have mentioned that, too.

PHOTO: Anne Layne-Farrar

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