A new law could make it harder for some Georgia workers to become union members

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia lawmakers have made it harder for corporate workers to get state economic incentives to form unions, which could violate federal law.

The House voted 96-78 on Wednesday to approve Senate Bill 362, which would ban companies that accept government incentives from recognizing unions without a formal, secret ballot. The measure, which was supported by Gov. Brian Kemp, now goes to the Republican governor for his signature.

The bill would prevent unions from receiving recognition directly from a company — without the additional step of a secret ballot — after enrolling a majority of workers in a so-called card check.

The proposal comes at a time when Georgia is providing billions of dollars in economic incentives to electric vehicle manufacturers and other companies.

Labor leaders and Democrats argue the bill violates the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which governs union organizing, and is being challenged in court.

“If this bill passes, there will be a lawsuit that will cost Georgia taxpayers millions of dollars and the state will lose,” Rep. Saira Draper, an Atlanta Democrat, said on the House floor Wednesday.

Georgia AFL-CIO President Yvonne Brooks condemned the law's passage, calling it a “political ploy by the business elite.”

“Georgia’s working families deserve lawmakers who will defend our right to organize and advocate for good, union jobs with fair pay and good benefits,” she said.

Democrats say the bill is really about making it harder for unions to organize and for companies to accept them. Other Democrats argued in the House that the bill would hurt Georgia businesses by discouraging workers from other states from moving here.

“Why should we do anything about labor when we need to attract more workers from all available sources?” asked Rep. Gregg Kennard of Lawrenceville.

Republicans denied that the bill was anti-worker and said it was aimed at protecting workers' privacy. Some, including Kemp, argue that the secret ballot protects workers from being pressured into joining a union.

“Nothing in this bill prevents the formation of a union,” said Rep. Soo Hong of Lawrenceville. “We are ensuring that hardworking Georgians who hold these jobs have the opportunity to decide whether they want to be represented by a union as the state invests federal resources to spur job creation.”

Only 4.4% of Georgia workers are union members, the eighth lowest share of any state.

Georgia's bill is modeled after a law passed in Tennessee last year, but there could be similar laws in many other states. The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council is Promote the idea. The national push could also be an answer to a decision The initiative introduced by the Democratic-controlled NLRB last year made it easier for unions to organize by card check.

Governors in other Southern states, traditionally hostile to organized labor, have spoken out against unions after the United Auto Workers promised a new impetus after several failed attempts to organize non-union car factories.

Alabama's Republican Governor Kay Ivey emphasized her state's economic success Is being attacked”. Henry McMaster, the Republican governor of South Carolina, told lawmakers in the country's least unionized state last month that organized labor posed such a threat that he would fight unions. to the gates of hell.”

Kemp announced his support for the bill in a January speech to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, echoing the chamber's own agenda. He said the move would protect workers' “right to opportunity” from President Joe Biden's pro-union agenda and outside forces “that want nothing more than to grind the free market to a halt.”

Alabama and South Carolina are among five states that have passed state constitutional amendments guaranteeing access to secret union ballots. Like Tennessee, Indiana has passed a state law.


Associated Press writer Sudhin Thanawala contributed to this report.