This past week, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law protections for workers’ access to private-ballot union elections, joining Georgia and Tennessee as the third state in the nation to implement such a law over the last two years. These three southern states – thanks to the leadership of their legislatures and governors – are leading the nation in looking after workers’ right to a private ballot and protecting taxpayers’ resources. 

Protecting the state’s workers is at the top of Ivey’s mind. “To further protect our Alabama jobs … I was proud to sign Senate Bill 231 into law,” she said during her announcement of the signing of SB231. “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,” she continued. “My message is clear: I am standing up for Alabamians and protecting our jobs.” 

This new law guarantees employees of companies that accept Alabamians’ taxpayer dollars access to a private-ballot union vote. 

Federal law allows unions to organize through a method called "card check," where union representatives encourage employees to sign cards showing their support for union membership. This process often takes place in public settings and can utilize social pressure and intimidation techniques. 

“With the passage of this critical legislation, Alabama becomes a friendlier state for employees and job creators to do business,” added bill sponsor Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur)

Union representatives understand that the card check method can compel many workers to support a union out of fear, even if they would otherwise oppose it. Former organizers have shared stories of visiting workers' homes to pressure them into submission. 

Additionally, it also deprives workers from hearing both sides of the story on unionization, inhibiting their ability to make an informed decision. 

While companies can decline the card check process and choose a private-ballot election, which allows workers to vote confidentially, there is no guarantee they will opt for this method. The potential backlash from union-aligned politicians and supporters can influence their decision and coerce them into forgoing what is normal for every other democratic election conducted at every level of government. 

When a state allocates taxpayer-funded economic incentives to companies, it has a responsibility to ensure fair and private votes. Alabama has the authority to mandate that companies receiving state taxpayer resources respect private voting instead of using the card check method. Failing to provide employees with a private vote effectively endorses card check and its associated intimidation, all at the taxpayers' expense. 

Though states cannot change federal labor law, they can attach conditions to state incentive funds. The bill, introduced by Orr and guided through the House by Majority Leader Scott Stadthagen (R-Hartselle), withholds state taxpayer money from companies that recognize a union without a private ballot process. 

“Alabama is proud of our longstanding commitment to advancing policies that protect workers’ rights to earn a living, free from coercion,” said Stadthagen. “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 approach, championed by my organization, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s Workers for Opportunity initiative, supports pro-worker legislation across the country. We applaud Ivey, Orr, and Stadthagen for showing initiative in getting this done for their state’s workers. 

This law is the latest effort to ensure that workers are free from labor unions’ pressure tactics to organize via card check. 

Under Ivey's leadership, Alabama can look forward to a future where workers are free to decide whether union membership is right for them without intimidation and with time to reflect on all the relevant facts. This law ensures employees have the chance to be heard and clearly demonstrates Alabama's commitment to protecting them from coercion while also protecting the right to a private-ballot vote. 

Tony Daunt serves as senior director of Workers for Opportunity, an initiative of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to

Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.