Alabama bill changing standard for how employees unionize heads to House floor

Alabama bill changing standard for how employees unionize heads to House floor

One Alabama lawmaker is working to set a new standard for companies when forming unions. State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) is sponsoring a bill changing how employees unionize.

On Thursday, the Alabama Senate advanced legislation to strengthen the state’s weak open records law by setting deadlines to respond to requests to view public documents.

Under the current law, employees who want to form a union can sign a card to show interest. It’s called the “card check system.” With enough cards, the employer can recognize the union or call in the National Labor Relations Board to cast a secret ballot vote.

The bill would remove state incentives for companies that do not have a secret ballot vote when forming unions. These state incentives can include tax credits and loans. Orr explained it will prevent coercion from employers and labor unions when unionizing occurs.

The legislation would require a public records officer to acknowledge the receipt of a simple request within ten days and then “provide a substantive response” to the request within 15 additional business days. Public entities would be given more time to respond to requests requiring more than eight hours of work.

State Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) voted against Orr’s bill. He said the bill takes away voluntary negotiation between unions and companies.

Civil lawsuits would continue to be the only avenue for settling disputes. The bill sets out timeframes for when a request is presumed to be denied because of a failure to respond, allowing a person to proceed with a lawsuit.

By comparison of 2007 state open records laws conducted by the Better Government Association and the National Freedom of Information Coalition, Alabama ranked at the bottom of the nation. At the same time, the review gave 38 states, including Alabama, an “F” grade, Alabama tied for last place in the comparative rankings.

United Auto Workers are attempting to unionize employees in the South. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a joint statement with other governors against the campaign. She cited layoffs in unionized companies and stated the union drive would be a detriment to auto workers in Alabama.

If signed into law, the bill would go into effect in October. “I think it’s important for Alabama to send a signal — like Georgia, like Tennessee — that in the future, if you get state incentives, we want to see a private ballot-type voting environment, Orr said.