The Georgia State Senate Insurance and Labor Committee voted unanimously in favor of a bill that would prohibit mass and targeted picketing of private residences and require employers to post notices informing employees of their right to work without joining a labor union.

Picketing of Residences

Georgia Senate Bill 469 proposes to amend the Georgia code section relating to labor organizations and labor relations, which already prohibits mass picketing "at any place." The amendments would clarify that the prohibition on mass picketing includes private residences, and would prohibit any individual or organization from picketing a private residence:

that has or intends the effect of interfering with the resident’s right to quiet enjoyment, or when such targeted picketing has or intends the effect of violence or intimidation.

The proposed prohibition comes on the heels of last year’s well-publicized picketing by the Communications Workers of America of the residence of Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam (slide show here), as well as the Occupy movement’s picketing outside the residences of General Electric’s and Wells Fargo’s CEOs. Fourteen Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in Georgia, and 32 Fortune 1000 businesses make Georgia their home base. Moreover, Atlanta is second only to New York and Houston in the number of Fortune 500 headquarters.

The bill would not apply to private residences that are also places of employment "when targeted picketing relates to or is targeted at such employment."

Notice of "Right to Work" Rights

In addition, perhaps inspired by the National Labor Relations Board’s impending notice-posting rule, Senate Bill 469 also seeks to require private employers to:

post adequate notice informing employees of the rights under this Code section [i.e., the right to work without having to join a union or pay union dues and the right to decertify a union] at locations where notices are normally posted or, if no such normal location for posting exists, physically disseminate such notice to employees. A private employer may also, at its discretion, post such notices on the company’s intranet or disseminate them via other electronic means of communication.

Finally, Senate Bill 469 would not allow employers to deduct union dues from an employee’s wages unless the employee provides annual written authorization.

Potential Challenges

If Senate Bill 469 is ultimately enacted, it is likely to be challenged on constitutional and preemption grounds. However, it appears that the prohibition on targeted picketing of residences is likely to survive any constitutional challenge based on the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has held that municipalities can prohibit targeted picketing of residences without violating the First Amendment because "[e]ven protected speech is not equally permissible in all places and at all times." Frisby v. Schultz, 487 U.S. 474, 479 (1988). While opponents of the bill might claim that it is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act, the validity of that claim is questionable as it is well established that states can enact "right to work" laws, so it is doubtful that an ordinance requiring employers to notify employees of their "right to work" under state law is preempted by the Act.