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How ALEC affects Alabama legislation

The American Legislative Exchange Council influences bills behind the scenes in the state.

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The American Legislative Exchange Council, founded in 1973 as the Conservative Caucus of State Legislators, is the pro-corporation conservative policy think tank with a heavy hand in legislation in Alabama and nationwide.

Founded on the Jeffersonian principles of limited government, free markets and federalism, the group puts legislators in the same room as representatives from large corporations to workshop model legislation to take back to statehouses and Congress.

ALEC has entertained legislation regarding deregulating flavored tobacco products, opposing assault rifle bans and undermining educating the public about climate change. With a history of appeasing the rich, ALEC also has a history of union legislation designed to suppress.

In 2019, ALEC released a book of labor reform policy fact sheets, detailing the nature of public-sector union involvement and noteworthy legislation in each state, followed by some ALEC solutions. For Alabama, ALEC recommended union recertification every even year via secret ballot, financial disclosure requirements and enabling employees to opt out of union representation.

Last week, Bren Riley, the president of the Alabama chapter of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, called SB231 “an ALEC bill,” insinuating this bill might’ve come from one of these aforementioned meetups ALEC hosted with its legislative and corporate members.  

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, who introduced SB231, was named an ALEC Policy Champion back in March for his part as a primary sponsor of the CHOOSE Act. The CHOOSE Act was signed in March by ALEC alumni, Gov. Kay Ivey.

ALEC launched a new coalition in January, the Education Freedom Alliance, which was aiming for Alabama to play a role in their 25 by ‘25 initiative, to bring education freedom to 25 states by 2025. The CHOOSE Act was first read in February.

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Some ALEC model bills look to lower wages for workers, union-affiliated or not. One in particular prevents municipalities from setting a wage higher than the federal or state minimum wage to account for high living costs, an issue Birmingham faced in 2016. Alabama is one of 26 states to pass a preemption law. 

The most notable union legislation to come from ALEC is the Right to Work Act, which are state laws that protect employees from being forced into a union. The National Labor Relations Act did that in 1935. The Right to Work Act simply makes collective bargaining more difficult for unions.

Mary Claire is a reporting intern.

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