On Monday, Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a bill that removes incentives from companies who voluntarily recognize unions without first holding a private ballot election.

Senate Bill 231 (SB231), sponsored by State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), states no employer would be eligible to receive an economic development incentive for a project if the employer voluntarily grants recognition rights for the employees solely and exclusively based on signed labor organization authorization cards if the selection of a bargaining representative may be conducted through a secret ballot election.

“This week in Tuscaloosa, we have a secret ballot taking place at the Mercedes plant. It is my hope that every worker there votes — it’s crucial that every voice is heard. We want to ensure that Alabama values, not Detroit values, continue to define the future of this great state,” Ivey said in a statement. “To further protect our Alabama jobs, this morning, I was proud to sign Senate Bill 231 into law. This bill, brought forward by North Alabama’s own Senator Arthur Orr, will require any business that receives incentives to hold an election by secret ballot. Y’all, this is only right so that every vote is counted. My message is clear: I am standing up for Alabamians and protecting our jobs.”

Economic incentives apply to any grant, loan or tax credit the state or local government provides to an employer.

"With the passage of this critical legislation, Alabama becomes a friendlier state for employees and job creators to do business,” Orr said. 

Under the bill, an employer who voluntarily discloses an employee's personal contact information to a labor organization or third party acting on behalf of a labor organization without the employee's prior written consent, unless otherwise required by state or federal law, would also be ineligible for economic development incentives.

"Alabama is proud of our longstanding commitment to advancing policies that protect workers' rights to earn a living, free from coercion. We took an important step in ensuring that taxpayer dollars will not subsidize companies that deprive their employees of the right to a private vote over whether to unionize,” Alabama House Majority Leader Scott Stadthagen (R-Hartselle), who carried the bill in the House, said. “This policy makes clear that Alabama is a friendly state for employees to work and business owners to open up shop, without fear of combative union politics threatening their livelihoods and bottom lines."

The bill does not apply to any agreement between the state and an employer executed before Jan. 1, 2025.

“The Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s national Workers for Opportunity initiative applauds Gov. Kay Ivey for signing this landmark legislation,” Tony Daunt, senior director of Workers for Opportunity, said. “Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Ivey, bill sponsor Sen. Arthur Orr and House Majority Leader Scott Stadthagen, Alabama joins Tennessee and Georgia as the third state in the nation to enact such protections for taxpayers and workers.”

Jacob Morrison, president of the North Alabama Area Labor Council, said the legislation was “at the behest of (American Legislative Exchange Council), the big money donors, the employers, the out-of-state (and) out-of-country special interest groups that are the foreign automotive manufacturers”

“The National Labor Relations Board adjudicates matters like these and virtually never unions are found to be engaging in coercion or intimidation,” Morrison told 1819 News in an interview on Monday. “It happens sometimes, of course, and it's condemnable and bad when it happens. In the majority of union elections actually, employers are found to be in violation of the National Labor Relations Act and engaging in illegal interference, coercion, and intimidation, and retaliation. The actual issue with coercion and intimidation in union campaigns is coming from the employers and we need to bring them to heel.”

The most common unionization paths for workers are voluntary recognition and private National Labor Relations Board union elections like the one currently taking place in Vance, where Mercedes-Benz workers are deciding whether or not to join the United Auto Workers this week.

“If the majority of workers sign these (union authorization) cards then it is a legal venue under the National Labor Relations Act for an employer to recognize that the majority of the workplace supports the union and try to begin bargaining a first contract in good faith with the workers and the union that they’ve chosen to organize with,” Morrison said. “We can understand how that would be a beneficial tact for both the employer and the employee to want to have hospitable relations between the two parties, right? We can start working together for a better future for both parties and working together in genuine cooperation.”

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.

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