Bill would require companies receiving Georgia incentives to use secret union ballots

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(The Center Square) — The Georgia Senate passed a measure requiring companies receiving state economic development incentives to allow employees to vote on union representation using secret ballots.

Under Senate Bill 362, companies must allow employees to vote on union representation in a secret ballot unless prohibited by law or existing bargaining agreements. The measure also requires companies receiving taxpayer-funded incentives to agree they won’t share employees’ personal contact information with union organizers without written consent.

The Senate passed the measure, which lawmakers said is a priority of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, by a 31-23 margin.

“Employers are free to agree to hold union elections,” state Sen. Mike Hodges, R-Brunswick, said on the Senate floor. “However, [employers] only lose eligibility for state incentives if they decide to skip [a] secret ballot election when it’s available, or if they choose to disseminate employee personal information without their consent.

“The state of Georgia has a very strong interest in how our state incentives are utilized when we seek to attract employers to locate or expand a facility in the number one state for business,” Hodges added. “As such, this bill seeks to protect hardworking Georgians’ rights and the unionization effort so that each employee is free to vote in private without fear of coercion, intimidation or harassment.”

Democrats opposed the measure, saying it conflicts with federal law and will likely end up in litigation.

“The secret ballot process, which takes longer, more weeks, more involvement, provides an employer with an opportunity to put their thumb on the scale a little bit more than in the voluntary recognition process,” state Sen. Josh McLaurin, D-Atlanta, said on the Senate floor. “In passing this bill and doing what the governor wants, we will litigate it. And folks, the state of Georgia will lose.”

The National Federation of Independent Business called on House members to pass the measure.

“Senate Bill 362 is designed to stop organized labor from pressuring its way into small businesses and other workplaces,” NFIB State Director Hunter Loggins said in a statement. “Union leaders want the power to force workers to say in front of their co-workers and union organizers whether they support the idea of joining the union. Union leaders know full well how intimidating and coercive that would be.

“The fact of the matter is that secret ballots are essential to our democracy,” Loggins said. “No one has a right to know how you vote. That’s why the Georgia House must protect our right to a secret ballot and vote ‘yes’ on Senate Bill 362. We need to keep things fair for both sides.”

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