By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Gov. Phil Bryant signed three bills into law Wednesday designed to curb union activity in the state.
“Mississippi won’t tolerate any activity like intimidation,” said Bryant moments after a bills signing in his office attended by Speaker Philip Gunn, Sen. Nancy Collins, R-Tupelo, Rep. Jerry Turner, R-Baldwyn, a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others.
He added, “We wouldn’t allow someone to block an entrance to a business or intimidate that business into allowing union membership. I think it’s important to let them know that this administration, this Legislature, is not supporting any unions of any type at any time in Mississippi’s business or public sector.”
Turner and Collins chair their respective Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency committees where the bills originated.
Collins said the legislation is important to the whole state, but especially to Northeast Mississippi because of Toyota’s manufacturing plant in Blue Springs. There have been efforts to unionize other auto manufacturing plants in the South, including Nissan in Canton.
• Prohibist protests and demonstrations that blocked entrance and exit to a business or residence.
• Prohibits the intimidation of a business by a union.
• Prohibits local government from passing laws that would enhance likelihood of a company unionizing.
“This levels the playing field and puts employees and employers on the same playing field,” said Turner, who said the legislation “reaffirms more than anything else that Mississippi is a right to work state” where people cannot be forced to join a union.
Opponents of the legislation during the 2014 session said the bills were not needed. Mississippi is already a right to work state and union activity is minimal at best.
They said supporters of the legislation are not interested in a level playing field, but want to ensure unions remain weak in the state. In both the House and Senate, the Republican majorities voted down amendments that would protect an employee from retaliation by the employer for engaging in union activity.
The amendment was defeated by a voice vote in the Senate and by 63-57 in the House.
Byrant said Mississippi’s minimal union activity is a major economic development incentive to companies looking to expand.