By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Bills designed to curb union activity in the state have passed the Senate and will be considered by the Mississippi House in the coming weeks.
Four bills, dealing with protecting employers against intimidation from union activities and ensuring local ordinances do not hinder businesses from opposing union activity, passed the Senate. Opponents of the legislation said the bills do nothing but restate existing federal and state law and address problems that do not exist in Mississippi.
Sen. John Polk, R-Hattiesburg, said the legislation was needed “to make businesses understand Mississippi is a place they can strive and grow with everyone being treated equally.”
The legislation originally was taken up last week against the backdrop of the vote to unionize the Volkswagen manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., and an ongoing effort to unionize the Nissan plant in Canton.
Since the vote was taken last week in the Mississippi Senate, the Volkswagen employees in Tennessee have opted not to unionize. The vote has called into question how effective unions can be in the emerging automative manufacturing industry in the South.
Still, on Monday the Senate sent to the House two bills dealing with union activity that had been blocked from being transferred by a parliamentary maneuver. The other bills were not blocked and already had been transferred to the House.
The bills would:
• Stop unions from forcing businesses to agree to certain concessions, such as having an open ballot vote.
• Stop local governments from imposing additional restrictions on employers, such as requiring businesses that bid for public works jobs to agree to a higher wage scale for those jobs.
• Prevent union protests that block the entrances to businesses.
• Prevent local governments from passing ordinances keeping businesses from doing background checks.
Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, said the legislation was not needed in Mississippi because the issues contemplated by the legislation are not a problem.
“I had hoped we would deal with bills that need to be passed, not for political show that does not accomplish anything,” Blount said, adding the bills were passed “to reaffirm the law.”
Polk said the legislation would keep such issues from arising.