Kemp signs bill discouraging unionization in Georgia

Large employers would lose access to state tax relief if they voluntarily work with unions

Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday signed a bill that limits the ability of new labor unions to form in the state.

Senate Bill 362 prevents companies voluntarily recognizing unions from accessing state tax credits for mega-projects, such as new automotive plants.

Kemp’s approval of the legislation comes after he signed onto a joint statement with governors in other Southern states condemning unionization efforts, particularly from the United Automobile Workers.

“The UAW has come in making big promises to our constituents that they can’t deliver on. And we have serious reservations that the UAW leadership can represent our values,” reads the statement, also supported by the governors of Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

That letter has failed to sway some workers from unionizing. Last weekend, hourly workers at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, voted overwhelmingly to join the UAW, despite intense pushback.

Kemp’s aim is to thwart future organizing attempts by workers at automotive plants in Georgia, such as those operated by Hyundai Motor Group.

The legislation — sponsored by a Kemp floor leader, state Sen. Mike Hodges — would prevent businesses from receiving state economic incentives if they voluntarily recognize unions through a check of signed union cards rather than through a secret-ballot election.

Labor advocates prefer voluntary recognition because it allows unions to begin negotiating with companies immediately. Ballot elections, they say, take longer to conduct and give employers more time to discourage workers from supporting a union. However, supporters of SB 362 say secret-ballot elections give workers more privacy in making their choice.

Companies would also be punished for sharing their workers’ contact information with unions.

Georgia has been a right-to-work state since 1947, when Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act, allowing workers to refuse to join a union or pay dues, even though they may benefit from contracts negotiated by a union with their employer. Just 5.4% of workers in the state belonged to a union in 2023, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, also known as the Wagner Act, protects the right for workers to form a union and collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions.

The new Georgia law is expected to be challenged in court, labor experts have said.

Senate Bill 362 is an illegal attack on working people and private businesses in Georgia,” Georgia’s chapter of the AFL-CIO wrote in a letter opposing the bill.