The Georgia Senate Insurance and Labor Committee voted 5-4 on Tuesday to advance a bill that would make it harder for workers to form and join unions in the state. The bill, SB 247, would require workers to vote by secret ballot in union elections, prohibit employers from deducting union dues from workers’ paychecks, and allow workers to opt out of union membership at any time. The bill would also ban project labor agreements, which are contracts that require union labor for certain public works projects.
Supporters Claim Bill Protects Workers’ Rights
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, said the bill is intended to protect workers’ rights and freedom of choice. He argued that unions often coerce workers into joining and paying dues, and that secret ballots would prevent intimidation and fraud in union elections. He also said that project labor agreements limit competition and increase costs for taxpayers.
“Georgia is a right-to-work state, and we want to keep it that way,” Thompson said. “This bill is about empowering the individual worker and ensuring that they have a voice in their workplace.”
Thompson was joined by four other Republican senators who voted in favor of the bill, as well as several business groups and conservative organizations that testified in support of the bill. They claimed that the bill would promote economic growth, job creation, and workers’ welfare in Georgia.
Opponents Denounce Bill as Anti-Worker and Anti-Democratic
The bill faced strong opposition from Democratic senators, labor unions, civil rights groups, and progressive organizations that testified against the bill. They denounced the bill as an attack on workers’ rights and democracy, and said it would undermine collective bargaining, workers’ safety, and wages and benefits in Georgia.
Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, said the bill is part of a nationwide effort by corporate interests and Republican lawmakers to weaken unions and workers’ power. She said that unions are essential for improving working conditions, reducing inequality, and advancing social justice in Georgia.
“This bill is a disgrace. It is anti-worker, anti-union, and anti-democratic,” Orrock said. “It is part of a coordinated assault on the labor movement that has been going on for decades. It is designed to silence workers’ voices and erode their rights.”
Orrock was joined by three other Democratic senators who voted against the bill, as well as several union leaders and workers who shared their personal stories and experiences with union organizing and representation. They argued that unions provide workers with dignity, respect, and a voice in their workplace, and that secret ballots would expose workers to employer interference and retaliation in union elections. They also said that project labor agreements ensure quality work, fair wages, and local hiring for public works projects.
Bill Faces Uncertain Future in Senate and House
The bill now moves to the Senate Rules Committee, which will decide whether to send it to the full Senate for a vote. However, the bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate and the House, where it is likely to encounter more opposition and scrutiny from lawmakers and stakeholders. The bill also faces a potential veto from Gov. Brian Kemp, who has not taken a position on the bill but has expressed support for Georgia’s right-to-work law in the past.
The bill comes amid a wave of union activity and organizing efforts in Georgia and across the country, especially among workers in the health care, education, and service sectors. The bill also comes as Georgia is preparing to host the 2024 Super Bowl, which is expected to generate millions of dollars in revenue and thousands of jobs for the state. However, some union leaders and activists have threatened to boycott or protest the event if the bill becomes law.