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A new bill recently passed by the Georgia state senate wants to restore anonymity to the voting process for union recognition. By allowing Georgia workers to cast ballots privately, Senate Republicans hope to protect employees from labor intimidation, ensuring an end to compulsory union membership.

Americans for Tax Reform applauds Georgia Republicans for their effort to curb union coercion and urges federal legislators to implement a national Right to Work standard in order to safeguard these gains. 

Georgia Senate Bill 362, which passed 31-23 along party lines in the Senate and was favorably reported out of the House Committee on Industry and Labor this month, would prohibit new businesses from receiving state incentives if they fail to hold anonymous elections for formal union recognition. Traditionally, businesses have been allowed to endorse unions through a system known as card check, which involves the informal collection of employee signatures to authorize a labor organization. Card check is wrought with problems including illegitimate reporting of signatures and intimidation of workers by union activists.

Georgia Republicans have expressed concern about this method for union recognition. Along with card check, labor officials often have access to employee contact information, creating more opportunity for intimidation and retribution against dissenting workers. Instead, Georgia Senator Mike Hodges, author of SB 362, has championed secret-ballot elections as a way to even the labor playing field, allowing workers “to vote in private without coercion, intimidation, or harassment.” The bill also prohibits employers from disclosing employee contact information to labor organizers, further insulating workers from union bullying. Lastly, SB 362 would only apply to new attempts for union recognition, leaving all current Georgia labor organizations intact. 

Over the past week, Georgia Republicans have marketed SB 362 as a common-sense measure to ensure that labor organizations truly represent the interests of workers. By unshackling workers from retribution from union bosses, this bill allows Georgians to freely speak their minds at the ballot box. As Senator Ed Setzler stated, SB 362 “does not protect big business”, but instead safeguards “the right to conscience…the anonymity of the ballot is essential.” 

Not everyone is a fan of the bill, however, with critics such as the AFL-CIO voicing its disapproval following its passage in the Georgia Senate. Senator Jason Anavitarte has theorized that opposition to SB 362 upholds an outdated status quo, noting that “this system has not been revised since the Great Depression… Democrats want to hold workers to the standards of the bosses.” Senator Bo Hatchett was similarly puzzled at pushback against the bill, asking “why is it such a bad policy to say…you have a right to choose whether or not to unionize, and you’re not going to get bullied, and you’re not going to get blackmailed?” 

On the whole, the alarmist claims by Georgia Democrats can be best addressed by the remarks of Senator Bill Cowsert, who was “amazed that the [labor] representatives of the employees aren’t clamoring” for SB 362. As Senator Cowsert reminded Democrats, this bill also keeps “companies from bullying the people or terminating or punishing people that want union representation.” 

Georgia Republicans want every voice to be heard at the union ballot box. By passing SB 362, Georgia would set an important standard for union election integrity––one that could one day serve as a national model. Through secret-ballot election procedures, Georgia workers can have their own interests represented, rather than the interests of labor bosses.