Anti-union labor bill passes Georgia Senate

A bill that would weaken union protections in Georgia passed 31-23 in the state Senate on Thursday after hours of debate.

Senate Bill 362, authored by State Senator Mike Hodges (R-Brunswick), would prevent companies from receiving certain tax incentives from the state unless their decision to form a union was made by secret ballot.

Supporters of the bill say it would protect employees' right to privacy from employers and co-workers. But opponents say the measure would violate the federal Labor Relations Act of 1935, which allows companies to recognize unions that have the support of a majority of workers.

Many lawmakers wore red bandanas in recognition of rednecks in the Senate, a term that once referred to members of the United Mine Workers of America, an interracial union founded in the early 20th century.

Derek Mallow

“We stand in solidarity with our union brothers and sisters and that’s why today we don our red bandanas as rednecks,” said State Senator Derek Mallow (D-Savannah). “We ask you to support the working men and women of this state by voting no [on SB 362].”

According to Hodges, current union laws “can be used by organizers to publicly coerce, intimidate, or harass employees into electing union recognition, even when certain employees may not want recognition.”

He emphasized that the bill does not prevent workers from organizing. However, Senate Democrats countered that intimidation often comes from employers, not union leaders, and noted the dangers of undermining union protections.

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Atlanta state Sen. Nan Orrock used the fountain to denounce what she called a “determined struggle to suppress labor” that dates back at least 40 years.

“The interesting fact is that states with higher levels of unionization have healthier populations,” Orrock said. “They perform better in schools. They have a higher number of people going to college. They have an overall dynamic and healthy economy that Georgia cannot compete with.”

However, Senate Republicans insisted that existing labor laws were outdated and did not adequately protect workers.

“Many of the unionization stories we hear today are yesterday’s stories,” said Sen. Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas). “This system has not been overhauled since the Great Depression. … Democrats want to hold workers to the bosses' standards because they believe these federal laws were so great then that they protect workers today.”

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for further debate.