TENNESSEE (WJHL) — The state Senate will consider a bill on Monday that would require companies to conduct all union elections through secret ballots in order to keep economic development benefits.
The legislation, if passed, would enact the “Employee Free Choice and Privacy Act,” which places certain restrictions regarding unions on employers seeking to receive economic development incentives.
The restriction would apply to businesses that allow card-check union elections, rather than using secret ballots.
Card check elections and secret ballots are two common options for workers who intend to form a union. According to the National Labor Relations Act, card check elections consist of more than 50 workers signing an authorization card, then an employer deciding whether to recognize the union or not. In a secret ballot, however, the process is conducted by the National Labor Relations Board and requires much more time and expense.
Leaders of UA Local 538, a union hall and training center for skilled workers in Johnson City, told News Channel 11 how the legislation would affect local businesses.
“This would allow the state to use the grants and the tax breaks as leverage to force the company to conduct the elections as the state wants them to,” UA Local 538 Vice President Kenneth Osborne said. “And it takes control away from the companies to control their own elections.”
The new legislation, if voted in, would restrict benefits and incentives for companies that allow card check elections, effectively forcing businesses to use secret ballots in order to keep their economic development benefits.
“In any area, when the unions organize and when the workers get an increase in wages, even the non-union workers will feel the effects of the wages going up,” Osborne said. “Tennessee’s 43rd in the nation in worker wages and benefits. Less than 5% of the workforce here is unionized.”
“This is another one of those undercurrent bills that they try to pass to take away from the worker and the company how to conduct their elections,” he added.