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Warnock-backed Pro Act isn't good for Georgia
Billy Hickman
Sen. Billy Hickman - photo by Submitted photo

By District 4 Sen. Billy Hickman

During these difficult times in which many colleges and universities are experiencing declining enrollment and financial distress, Georgia Southern University continues to bloom. Successive years of freshmen enrollment increases show that GSU is on firm footing and the near future is bright. 

Today, GSU’s enrollment tops 27,000 undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and 102 countries. 

We want to keep these future mechanical engineers, biologists, business managers, scientists and professionals right here in our region. Our business community and local leaders are working hard to make Effingham and Bulloch counties more than simply a great place to get an education, but also a great place to live, work, start a business and raise a family. 

A dangerous piece of legislation in Washington imperils these vital efforts. It’s called the Protecting the Right to Organize Act or PRO Act. The PRO Act is stuck in the U.S. Senate as this job-killing bill lacks enough votes to pass because of many anti-business provisions. Yet senators are attempting to sneak it into other, more popular bills. 

Among the many pillars of Georgia’s strong economy is our 75-year-old Right-to-work law. This law says workers cannot be forced to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment; they cannot be terminated for deciding not to pay dues even in a unionized workplace. The PRO Act would revoke this law, as well as those in 26 other Right-to-Work states. 

One study estimates this could affect more than 3.5 million Georgia workers and force them to pay union dues. Union dues in Georgia average almost $1,000 per year. There is no discount during periods of runaway inflation as we are experiencing today, in which the cost of living exceeds wage growth. 

The PRO Act would rob Georgia workers of their freedoms in other ways, too. Gone would be the use of the secret ballot in union elections. Instead, workers would be pressured to publicly sign a card expressing their preference to form a union. 

If that were not enough, the PRO Act would require employers to hand employee files to union organizers; files containing employee home addresses, personal phone numbers, and other sensitive material. In the hands of bad actors, this information would result in intimidation, even harassment of workers who oppose forming a union.

The bill is supported by Georgia United States Sen. Ralph Warnock, and it’s easy to see why. He is the third-highest recipient of union political money in the entire U.S. Senate. Union bosses want the PRO Act to pass because it could mean up to $20 billion in increased union dues, $3 billion of which would be available to them for additional political activities. 

But while the unions want it, Georgia’s voters do not. A recent survey conducted on behalf of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce shows that 52 percent of likely voters are less likely to vote for a member of Congress who backs the PRO Act, as opposed to only 13 percent who say they would be more likely.  

As noted, the PRO Act is floundering in the Senate with insufficient backing. Some of its supporters have attempted to insert its provisions into other pieces of legislation. Remember the Build Back Better reconciliation bill, the massive $3 trillion budget package? Hidden in that bill were many PRO Act provisions. That bill died, of course. So now, union-backed politicians have amended PRO Act provisions into the America COMPETES Act, a bill that is intended to make American industry more competitive with China. 

Warnock sits on a special committee empaneled to iron out a final version of the COMPETES Act.

Warnock needs to stand with the people of Georgia over the union bosses, especially the people in Bulloch County, who are working to build a stronger economic future for tomorrow’s workforce.

Hickman, a certified public accountant, is a Republican state senator who represents Effingham, Bulloch, Candler and Evans counties in the Georgia Legislature.