AND SO IT BEGINS…. As expected, the Employee Free Choice Act, a measure intended to make it easier for American workers to form unions, was introduced on the Hill today. The measure is often known as “card check,” because it would give workers the right to form a union when a majority of employees sign cards saying they want one.

Proponents expect the measure to pass the House with relative ease. In the Senate, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the leading support of the bill in the chamber, conceded this morning, “We have enough votes to pass the bill in the Senate. I’m not sure if we have enough votes to overcome a filibuster.”

There will be plenty of time for vote-counting; the measure isn’t expected to reach the floor until May. In the meantime, we’re also getting a sense of what EFCA opponents have in mind. Consider this jaw-dropper, from Jane Hamsher:

Today Citigroup lowered its rating on Wal-Mart from a buy to a hold because of the Employee Free Choice Act, “citing concern that legislation intended to make it easier for employees to unionize would raise the retail giant’s labor costs and hurt its competitiveness.” … The Citigroup analyst, Debora Weinswig, said Employee Free Choice (EFCA) “could be a significant drag to earnings.”

It’s hard to view this as anything other than a reckless and overt political act on the part of a company, Citigroup, that has made stupendously bad business decisions with dire economic consequences necessitating billions in taxpayer bailouts, at a time when the market can ill-afford it.

Even Bank of America admitted in an internal memo that increased wages for working people would mean “increased spending power of lower income consumers,” which would mean that even if Wal-Mart was successfully unionized — a big if — they could make up the cost of higher wages with an increase in sales. Somehow that calculation didn’t enter into Ms. Weinswig’s extraordinarily premature analysis.

Ezra added:

[I]t’s hard to recall another time when an analyst actually downgraded a stock on fears of legislation that few expect to pass. Indeed, many on the Left are arguing that this is more about generating a controlled stock market panic that will convince wavering senators to vote against EFCA than about accurately pricing Wal-Mart’s stock.

Josh Bivens at the Economic Policy Institute told Ezra, “When I see upgrades to the stocks of Wal-Mart’s already-unionized competitors (grocery stores like Safeway who will gain back market share if easier unionization results in higher Wal-Mart labor costs) specifically pegged to the specter of EFCA, then I’ll admit that Citi is engaged in good-faith prognosticating here. Otherwise, not so much.”

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.