Southern states OK bills barring state incentives to companies that voluntarily recognize unions

Amanda Goodman Berry, who has been with Delta for over 25 years, speaks at a press conference and rally for the most recent push to unionize workers at the airline on Tuesday, November 14, 2023, in Atlanta, Ga. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

Alabama lawmakers on Tuesday advanced legislation that would withhold economic incentive dollars from companies that voluntarily recognize a union without holding a secret ballot election.

The Alabama Senate voted 23-5 for Republican Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur’s bill. It now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives.

The measure says that companies would be ineligible for economic development incentives if they voluntarily recognize a union after a majority of employees return union-authorization cards — a process sometimes called “card check-off.”

Under the proposal, a secret ballot election would be required to determine if a union would be formed.

“It does not prevent an organization effort. Absolutely not. All it does is require a private vote,” Orr said.

The measure comes as auto manufacturers in the South face a unionization effort as states continue offering large economic incentives to lure electric vehicle manufacturers and other companies to locate within their borders. Lawmakers in Georgia and Tennessee have approved similar bills.

The Alabama proposal does not affect already unionized companies or incentive package agreements executed before Jan. 1, 2025.

A telephone message Tuesday to the Alabama AFL-CIO was not immediately returned.