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Feb
2014
20

Mississippi Senate Passes Host of Anti-Union Bills, Could Stifle UAW Progress There

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Last week, the Mississippi state senate passed three bills aimed at reigning in “union privilege.” State Sen. John Polk, R-Hattiesburg, presented the bills on the Senate floor and urged their passage to preserve the state’s image as being “business friendly.” All three bills passed along party lines.  

Among the “privileges” being reigned in are the right of workers to sign cards in union elections, the ability to protest, and the option of entering into a Project Labor Agreement.  Big government, anyone?

Most crippling of all may be SB 2473, which critics believe is aimed at stopping the progress being made by the United Auto Workers at Nissan’s Canton plant. From the Star-Telegram:

Senate Bill 2473 says that it’s illegal to coerce a business into staying neutral in a union drive or allowing workers to choose union representation by signing cards instead of by secret ballot. Businesses could sue anyone who engaged in coercion.

Union supporters have been pushing Nissan Motor Co. to declare its neutrality in a push by the United Auto Workers to unionize the Japanese automaker’s Canton plant. Sen. John Polk, R-Hattiesburg, said the bill wasn’t specifically aimed at Nissan, but said he was opposed to pressure on companies.

“What we’re trying to do is prevent that from happening and make sure everyone knows Mississippi is the right place to grow your business,” said Polk.

SB 2653 would make mass picketing and protests illegal if they block entrance ways to businesses or do not allow people to freely leave and enter a business.  If passed, those found in violation could be subject to up to six months in jail.  

SB 2797 bans Project Labor Agreements in the state, limiting the community benefits an employer or contractor can guarantee its workers on large-scale construction jobs.  It would also ban localities from mandating wages higher than the minimum wage on projects.  

Robert Shaffer, President of the Mississippi AFL-CIO, labeled the bills “overly broad,” saying they would “be used to illegally intimidate union supporters.”  ”The sheriff goes and arrests them and scares them to death,” Shaffer said in a phone interview with reporters, “We might win in federal court seven or eight years later, but the damage is done.”

Critics understand the bills constitute wholly unnecessary, Republican ideology-driven overreach.  Playing the role of realist, State Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, noted that Mississippi is already the least unionized state in the nation.  He said the bills, “Don’t accomplish anything.”

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