State Sen. Mike Hodges
ATLANTA – The Republican-controlled state Senate passed legislation Thursday Democrats charged would make it harder for unions to organize in Georgia.
Senate Bill 362, which passed 31-23 along party lines, would prohibit businesses seeking state economic development incentives from voluntarily recognizing the establishment of a union if a secret-ballot election option is available.
The measure also forbids companies from disclosing their workers’ contact information to union organizers without written permission.
Senate Republicans argued the bill, part of Gov. Brian Kemp’s 2024 legislative agenda, is aimed at protecting employees’ privacy rights, while guaranteeing secret ballot elections would make it more difficult for union organizers to intimidate workers.
“It does not prohibit a company’s employees from unionizing,” Sen. Mike Hodges, R-Brunswick, one of Kemp’s floor leaders in the Senate and the bill’s chief sponsor, told his Senate colleagues Thursday. “Each employee is free to vote in private without coercion, intimidation, or harassment.”
But Democrats turned that argument on its head by maintaining secret-ballot elections let company officials – not unions – intimidate their workers during campaigns that can drag out for months and often include “captive audience” meetings with employees to sway their votes.
“It discourages unions from expanding in this state … from holding big business accountable,” said Sen. Jason Esteves, D-Atlanta.
Sen. Donzella James, D-Atlanta, who was a member of the Professional Air Traffic Control Organization (PATCO) before then-President Ronald Reagan fired more than 11,000 PATCO members during a 1981 strike, said the bill is being pushed by business interests with political influence.
“This bill isn’t for hardworking Georgians,” she said. “It’s for those who have the governor on speed-dial.”
Other Senate Democrats charged the bill would violate the 1935 National Labor Relations Act by taking away the option of voluntary recognition of unions.
But Sen. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, said secret-ballot elections play an important role in safeguarding America’s political system.
“This bill does not protect big business,” he said. “This bill protects the right to conscience. … The anonymity of the ballot is essential.”
The bill now moves to the Georgia House.