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Georgia GOP-Passed Bill Removes Employer Right to Recognize Unions Right Away

As of 2022, only 5.4 percent of workers in Georgia were represented by a union.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp exits the stage after speak during The Gathering conservative conference hosted and moderated by talk radio host Erick Erickson at the Grand Hyatt hotel on August 18, 2023, in Atlanta, Georgia.

A bill passed by the Georgia legislature — which is now heading to Gov. Brian Kemp’s (R) desk for approval — would remove economic incentives for new businesses in the state if they decide to voluntarily recognize unions formed by their workers.

Senate Bill 362 passed the legislature on Wednesday. Kemp has indicated support for the bill and even pushed for the measure’s passage at the beginning of the legislative session, errantly claiming that the bill would empower workers as it would encourage new businesses in the state to allow secret ballot votes for unionizing workers.

However, the measure takes away a method of unionization called a “card check,” in which workers in support of unionizing sign a card and hand deliver it to the employer. Doing so can indicate to the owner that it’s in their best interest to avoid a lengthy voting process and push them to recognize a union right away.

During a union vote, meanwhile, workers often face intimidation tactics, misinformation and propaganda from the buisness’s owner.

The bill would only apply to new businesses entering the state in hopes of benefiting from the economic incentives that Georgia offers for doing so. It wouldn’t affect any businesses that have already recognized unions in the state. Georgia currently has the seventh-lowest unionization rate of any state in the U.S., with only 5.4 percent of workers represented by a union as of 2022.

Even if Kemp signs the bill into law, as he has indicated he will do, the measure will likely face legal challenges from workers’ rights groups and unions in the state. The federal National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) allows employers to recognize a union right away, and the bill would remove that right from new employers coming to the state.

Critics have blasted the bill for removing a method for workers to have their unions recognized quickly and efficiently.

“We can’t ignore what created the middle-class here in America, that is unions,” said Rep. Long Tran (D). “And I can’t believe we are today having to debate whether or not government should be picking and choosing the winners of businesses. I as a small business owner should have the final decision in how I handle labor and workforce with my business.”

“Georgia politicians have passed an appalling bill that attacks the fundamental freedoms of workers & business owners,” AFL-CIO president Liz Shuler said on X, adding that the bill “violat[es] long-held precedent established by the NLRA.”

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