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House passes bill to require secret ballot union vote at businesses receiving incentives

Opponents say unions are necessary to empower them to fight for fait pay and benefits.

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The Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday that would halt economic incentives for a business that voluntarily recognizes a union if a secret election can be held.

SB231, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, states that it will “condition an employers’ eligibility for economic development incentives upon the employer refraining from certain practices relating to employee representation by a labor organization.” 

“This pertains to any business that receives incentives. It doesn’t specify who receives it. If you do receive it, you have to let your employees vote on a private ballot,” said House Majority Leader Scott Stadhagen, R-Hartselle, who introduced the bill on the House floor.

The bill passed in the House 72-30, with a few Republicans joining Democrats in apposing the legislation.

The bill would require unionization at a company to require a private ballot to unionize, rather than a majority of employees signing union authorization cards in support of union representation.

Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Pritchard, said unions are rising in Alabama because workers need a third party to represent them.

“It’s because of the bad actors,” Bracy said. “It’s because of the people that don’t want to be good corporate citizens. It’s because of the people that look at greed over making sure that their employees have enough revenue to take home to take care of their families.”

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The legislation comes as unionization drives at Tuscaloosa’s Mercedes Benz plant and Montgomery’s Hyundai manufacturing plant. Gov. Kay Ivey and other state leaders have criticized the union drives, as the Mercedes plant plans to hold a union vote in May.

Stadthagen argued that unions intimidate workers into supporting them in the current system, and that private ballots would allow employees to be free from any intimidation.

“The secret ballot removes pressure from the unions and so forth in relation to the foundational principles and liberties on which our nation is built,” said Rep. Arnold Mooney, Indian Springs.

Will Tucker, the Southern Director of Jobs To Move America, told APR the bill’s passage would stifle the rights of working Alabamians.

“This bill is an attack on the rights of Alabama workers and business owners,” Tucker said. “It would prohibit businesses in Alabama from receiving economic development incentives if they voluntarily recognize a union, even if a majority of workers at the company say they want to join one.”

Tucker said voluntary union recognition, a valid pathway to unionization under federal law, “allows an employer to recognize the union once a majority of workers have signed authorization cards stating that they want the union to represent them.”

“Today, legislators told the hardworking people of Alabama that they can’t decide for themselves whether they want a union without the mediation of the federal government. It was wrong, and they should not give this bill final passage.”

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The bill now moves to the Senate with six days remaining in the legislative session.

Patrick Darrington is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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