Alabama conservatives are trying to undermine unionization efforts

Plus, a defector from the right speaks out.

Local Lens

On Monday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed into law a new bill that will block economic subsidies for businesses that voluntarily recognize the conduction and results of a union election. The legislation comes as the United Auto Workers (UAW) has spent $40 million in the South to encourage union organizing in the region’s auto manufacturing plants, including Alabama plants in Montgomery and Vance. Such efforts have already resulted in a historic union victory at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. 

“Alabama is not Michigan,” Ivey said at an event hosted by the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber. “Huntsville … Tuscaloosa … they’re not Detroit. We want to ensure that Alabama values, not Detroit values, continue to define the future of this great state.”

Alabama, a right-to-work state, has for decades been notoriously hostile to organized labor. The last notable union election to be held in the state was in 2021 at a Bessemer-based Amazon fulfillment center — wherein workers declined to join the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU). 

Republicans in the state legislature, who passed the bill last week, claim that Senate Bill 231 is designed to protect “single mothers working in a factory who might be intimidated by men who would want her to back unionizing.” It’s not exactly clear how disincentivizing businesses from respecting the voluntary organizing of union elections accomplishes this. 

Rather, it seems the goal of the legislation is to subvert labor organizing.  

“Let’s be clear: What this bill wants to do — prohibit Alabama businesses receiving state economic subsidies from voluntarily recognizing a union in their workplace — is federally illegal,” the Alabama chapter of the AFL-CIO said in a call to action. 

“Voluntary recognition of representation is protected by the [National Labor Relations Act]. NLRA protections and prohibitions cannot be circumvented by state legislation. The fundamental right of voluntary recognition has been upheld time and time again in courtrooms,” the statement continued. 

“Senate Bill 231 is an illegal attack on working people and private businesses in Alabama.” 

Eyes on the Right

A Texas woman who once ran for her local school board on a right-wing platform antagonistic to so-called “Critical Race Theory” and “child sexualization” in education is now claiming to ProPublica that such campaigns are designed to undermine public education. 

Courtney Gore, a former conservative radio host who in 2021 joined her local Granbury, Texas school board, initially asserted that the American education system was instilling far-left ideologies in the minds of young children. Gore, now the vice president of the Granbury Independent School District Board of Trustees, was part of a broader movement by Texas legislators, GOP activists and parents to ban books with LGBTQ themes — some of which they falsely claimed included child pornography.   

“When you put in the minds of parents that there is an agenda to indoctrinate their children … and the only answer is to get conservative Christian people elected to the school board,” Gore told ProPublica. “It’s a very powerful message.”

But Gore’s time actually serving her community and experiencing the realities of education policy — and the shadowy web of right-wing money flowing into such races — has opened her eyes to the real nature of the GOP's most recent culture war. 

“After 2 1/2 years on the board, Gore said she believes a much different scheme is unfolding,” Jeremy Schwartz explained in a second piece on Gore’s story. In actuality, it was never about “parents’ rights” or indoctrination, just “an effort by wealthy conservative donors to undermine public education in Texas and install a voucher system in which public money flows to private and religious schools.”  

Gore’s perspective is novel in that most of the reactionary grifters who get into the game usually never express much regret. But it’s not exactly surprising that the Republican battle cry of “Won’t someone think of the children?!” is really a cynical ploy to undermine — and eventually privatize — our public school system. In fact, it’s par for the course. 

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Jamie Larson