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Bernie Sanders Wants to End At-Will Employment, and That's a Truly Bad Idea That Would Increase Unemployment

December 8, 2019 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

Friday’s jobs report once again highlighted the strength of the US labor market. The unemployment rate hit a nearly 50-year low, with the total number of jobs added crushing expectations.


Yet despite another strong indication that the US jobs market is an economic success story, Democratic presidential candidates continue to demand risky and radical plans to overhaul the way Americans work.

Chief among them is Sen. Bernie Sanders. The Vermont senator wants to introduce a slew of changes ranging from a ” jobs guarantee” to a hike of the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

But perhaps Sanders’ most eyebrow-raising labor market plan is the call to outlaw the American norm of “at-will employment.”

Despite US labor-market flexibility delivering much lower unemployment than more heavily regulated countries, Sanders thinks it’s time to move toward more onerous employment laws. Getting rid of at-will employment would not only make it much more difficult for inexperienced, young, and risky hires to find work, but it would also reduce wages and living standards.



Sanders’ goal is laudable but the idea is misguided

Doing away with at-will employment means eliminating the presumption that employers should be able to fire workers at any time or for any reason, just as workers are free to walk away from a job if they choose.

Federal protections against termination already exist for discrimination against protected classes. And many states have additional safeguards for workers, such as laws that prevent companies from firing workers if it would breach implied promises to the employee or is a way to punish the employee for complying with public policies.

Yet Sanders’ plan goes much further. He wants a national “just cause” law, where the government would dictate what constitutes a fair layoff for personal or economic reasons, with the threat of court action and fines for employers found guilty of “unjust” dismissals.

His stated desire is laudable: improving job security for workers. But security isn’t free.

Making it costlier or riskier to fire people also makes it riskier …read more

Source: OP-EDS