House Democrats started today’s session by fighting vehemently against a bill brought forth by Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Birmingham), HB37, which would add Alabama’s status as a “Right-to-Work” to the state constitution.
The bill would further prohibit employers from requiring membership in a union or dismissing employees for their status as a union or non-union member.
Though a handful of House Republicans spoke in favor of the bill, noting that Alabama’s status as a “Right-to-Work” state has attracted large businesses like Polaris and Mercedes, the vast majority of comment on the bill came from House Democrats in opposition to the bill.
Members of the party took turns at the podium, stalling a vote on the bill for more than two hours.
“I know y’all call it ‘right to work,’ but it’s really ‘right to fire,'” Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) said.
Several other opponents noted that Alabama is already a “Right-to-Work” state by statute and wondered why there was a need for the bill. Mooney clarified that having Alabama’s “Right-to-Work” status codified in the constitution would encourage more businesses to locate to Alabama.
Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) also voiced opposition to the bill over the fact that Alabama’s constitution is already among the longest in the world, saying that while other states can carry a pocket-sized version of their constitution Alabamians would “need a cart to carry our constitution around.”
Rep. John Knight (D-Montgomery) concurred, adding that there are many issues that are more deserving of codification in the state constitution. Knight offered an amendment to the bill guiding new businesses to give preferential hiring treatment to veterans.
“This will send a strong message to veterans across this state that we support them,” Knight said before the amendment was approved, 67 to 28.
According to statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the three states with the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, North Dakota, Nebraska and South Dakota, are “Right-to-Work” states. Contrarily, the states with the highest unemployment rates in the nation, New Mexico, the District of Columbia and Alaska, are not.
After a bit more discussion, Mooney’s bill was defeated by a margin of 60 to 24.
Next the House took up HB45 from Rep. April Weaver (R-Shelby), which outlaws the sell of fetal tissue and provides parents with the right to respectfully dispose of a deceased child’s remains.
Again only a few comments were made in support of the bill with the majority of comment coming from opposing Democrats, especially those who linked the legislation to the recently debunked Planned Parenthood sting videos.
“I’m not going to argue the merits for or against abortion,” Todd said. “But I am going to point out the hypocrisy of this bill. It seems like (Republicans) only care about those nine months when they’re in the womb.”
Todd added that the House should take up measures to ensure that children aren’t forced to live in poverty or go without basic needs.
Though debate on the bill had not yet completed, the House adjourned until 1 p.m. Tuesday.