Georgia bill could transform unionization

Union activity in Georgia hasn't slowed in 2024, but workers have increased since January Southeastern Paper, US Sugar and Sherwin-Williams Everyone voted against unionization. That is, a group of Nestle Warehouse workers in McDonough unionized in January – and more elections are planned, including one for stagehands in Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, national labor movements affecting baristas and college athletes in Georgia have gained traction.

As Starbucks Workers United (SBWU) continues to build union momentum, Starbucks The company has finally agreed to return to the bargaining table to negotiate a contract, more than two years since the first Starbucks store in Buffalo, New York, unionized.

Starbucks' announcement followed a Feb. 19 letter the national barista union sent to Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan, informing him that the SBWU would be contesting union elections in 21 stores that same day. Now that the SBWU has unionized its 400th store, Starbucks is returning to the bargaining table.

Other major developments nationally could impact the local employment scene. Especially last week Basketball player at Dartmouth University was the first collegiate sports team to unionize after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that they were considered employees. That ruling and the Dartmouth Big Green's March 5 vote to unionize could spark similar pushes in Georgia college athletics.

Meanwhile, a proposed law before Georgia lawmakers could make it harder for workers to unionize at companies that receive tax breaks or other government economic development incentives.

Here's a breakdown of these developments by the Atlanta Civic Circle and our comprehensive summary of recent local union activity.

SB 362 is moving forward in the legislative session

Senate Bill 362, which passed the state Senate by a vote of 31-23 and is currently being considered in the House, would prohibit employers that receive federal economic development incentives from voluntarily recognizing new unions in their workplace. The legislation is part of Gov. Brian Kemp's stated “business-friendly” agenda and is likely to take effect during the current legislative session.

Under federal labor law, employers can choose to voluntarily recognize a new union through a card check if more than half of the workers at a workplace sign cards indicating they want to join, rather than requiring employees to hold a union election demand.

But under SB 362, any Georgia employer that receives economic development incentives from the state would be prohibited from voluntarily recognizing a union through a card check. Instead, they would have to submit any union initiative to an official election conducted by the NLRB. If these employers voluntarily recognize a union, they are penalized and forced to pay back the incentives they received.

The Georgia AFL-CIO, which includes the United Auto Workers and other unions, opposes the bill. James Williams, AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer of the Georgia AFL-CIO, told the Atlanta Civic Circle that SB 362 “takes away the path” to workplace unionization and is an example of “state government controlling business-to-business relationships and employees dictated”.

Starbucks agrees to resume union contract negotiations

Starbucks and Starbucks Workers United have announced that they will return to the bargaining table to develop a framework for contract negotiations. The news came as Starbucks Workers United unionized a Miami store to surpass the 400-store mark.

Before negotiations can proceed in earnest, the parties must clarify the details of the negotiation process – one of the main points of contention. Starbucks has insisted on negotiating separate contracts for each unionized store rather than a single contract with the SBWU. Will the coffee giant allow national SBWU representatives to attend negotiating sessions for each deal, whether in person or via Zoom?

Starbucks has also agreed to pay credit card tips and benefits to workers at unionized stores, a point of contention between Starbucks and union members since December 2022. For comparison: At the beginning of the union struggle, members of Starbucks Workers United campaigned for Starbucks to allow tipping on credit cards. At the time, the coffee giant only allowed cash or tips with the Starbucks card.

In September 2022, Starbucks introduced tipping on credit cards – but only for non-union stores. The NLRB supported the union's challenge, arguing that withholding tips from credit cards violated federal labor law by penalizing and discriminating against union members. Starbucks has now extended this benefit to Union Stores.

We will be contacting the unionized Starbucks stores in Georgia to find out if they have planned further negotiations with Starbucks companies. Stay tuned for updates.

Warehouse workers at Southeastern Paper Group in College Park voted against the Teamsters union

Warehouse worker at Southeastern Paper Groupwhich sells janitorial supplies, disposable food packaging and other packaging materials, voted against joining Teamsters Local 528 in Jonesboro. The voting unit consisted of 27 warehouse, maintenance and office workers at the company's College Park location.

Their secret ballot took place in late February, and the NLRB released the results on March 8. Workers trying to unionize in College Park can seek a new election next year to join either the same Teamsters local union or a different union.

But on March 5, the NLRB agreed to a separate union election Southeastern Paper Group College Park warehouse for 25 riders. You also decide whether to join Wagoners Local 528.

This also applied to the workers at the US sugar refinery Savannah

workers at US Sugar Savannah Refinery The Port Wentworth site also voted against unionization Teamsters Local 528 in Jonesboro. The voting unit, made up of 174 packaging and engineering workers, voted overwhelmingly against unionization in early February.

Of the 153 votes cast, there were 112 no votes and only 41 yes votes. The National Labor Relations Board certified the results on February 29.

Nestlé warehouse workers in McDonough vote to unionize

workers at Nestles The McDonough Warehouse voted to join Southeast Council of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in a January election that the NLRB certified on February 1. Of the 62 warehouse employees eligible to vote, there were 58 votes – 31 for the union and 27 against – for a narrow victory for the union.

Sherwin-Williams factory workers narrowly vote against union in Lawrenceville

In January, production and maintenance employees at a Sherwin Williams The Lawrenceville plant voted against joining International Union of Painters & Allied Trade Local 1961 in the narrowest space.

Of the 37 eligible voters, 31 voted in the election in mid-January – 16 of them against the union and 15 for it.

Upcoming union elections

Meanwhile, the NLRB has scheduled a March 18 union election for 13 stagehands Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. The employees vote on joining International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 927.

Flight instructors are also there this month FlightSafety International in Savannah filed a petition with the NLRB for a March 8 union election. The 99 flight instructors eligible to vote will vote on whether to join the union International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

On Valentine's Day, the NLRB approved a union election for 110 security guards employed by Loomis armored USA in Atlanta. They will vote on whether to join Local 382 of United Government of America security officials.

Atlanta driver for UNFI United Natural Foods filed a petition with the NLRB on February 7 to join an election TeamstersLocal 728. 98 employees are eligible to vote.