COLUMN: Congress debates bill to hurt Georgia’s economy

Published 9:30 am Saturday, June 25, 2022

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By Vance Smith and Richard Smith
Representatives in the Georgia House

The news surrounding the national economy is bleak and appears to be getting bleaker. Skyrocketing gas prices, inflationary pressure, a broken supply chain, and a persistent worker shortage have conspired to make running a business significantly more expensive than just eighteen months ago. Now, with turbulence in the stock market and rising interest rates, we are beginning to hear whispers of a recession.

It’s important to know that these are the results of deliberate, albeit poor, policy choices.

Here in Georgia, we have made decidedly different policy decisions that have yielded far better results. The executive publication Area Development has named Georgia the “Top State for Doing Business” for eight consecutive years. We are proud to say that here especially in the Columbus / LaGrange / Pine Mountain area, we have developed a robust manufacturing and small business base that is helping to grow Georgia’s economy and create good, high-paying jobs for working families.

This didn’t happen by accident. Our success, too, is the result of deliberate policy choices. 

One such policy that has created untold jobs for Georgians more than 75 years since its enactment is our state’s right-to-work law. This law says that Georgia workers cannot be forced to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of their employment. Here’s how it protects workers. Let’s imagine that a majority of workers at a Starbucks in Atlanta vote to form a union, as is their right. Under right-to-work, each individual employee at that store also had the right to decide for themselves whether or not to join the union.

But Georgia’s workers would lose that right and be forced to join the union under a proposed federal law called the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. The PRO Act would nullify right-to-work laws in 27 states and forces workers to join a union or pay the union dues, which in Georgia average about $1,000 per year.

That’s not all this overreaching labor wish list of a bill would do. It targets worker freedoms in other ways. For example, it would eliminate workers’ rights to a secret ballot in union elections. Instead, the PRO Act would make workers sign — or decline to sign — a union authorization card in public, in front of union organizers and even their coworkers. Imagine the outcry if a politician proposed doing away with the secret ballot to elect federal, state and local candidates for office.

The PRO Act also puts worker privacy at risk. One provision mandates that employers must hand over private worker information, like home addresses and phone numbers, to union reps without worker consent. This, of course, exposes them to potential threats and harassment from overeager union organizers.

The PRO Act fundamental changes the American workplace in over 50 unique ways, including reclassifying many gig economy workers as employees and making it much harder for entrepreneurs to enter the franchise business marketplace.

You would think after seeing the failures of the federal government’s policies, our own United States Senator Raphael Warnock is among the cosponsors of the job-killing PRO Act. That might be because he has taken more union campaign money than all but two other U.S. Senators.    

Warnock should be aware that a recent Georgia Chamber of Commerce poll shows Peach State voters oppose the above-mentioned provisions in the PRO Act and that more than half of all Georgians (52%) say they are less likely to vote for a member of Congress who supports it.

The good news is that the PRO Act seems to be going nowhere in the Senate, at least in its present form. The bad news is that the bill’s supporters continue to try to sneak its language into other bills they think would be more popular. Senator Warnock should be put on notice. Georgians are hardworking and industrious, as our economic strength shows. They need their United States Senator to work with them not against them.