Now that we’re inside a month from Election Day, it’s time to really circle the wagons on the opposition to the Georgia Restrictive Covenant Act (HB173). At some point in the last week or so, someone asked if there was a Facebook page to point people to: the answer is now yes. Here’s the page, which I’d encourage everyone to Like and share with all their colleagues and friends.
And if you really want to get ahead of the curve, Early Voting is now open in most counties so you could even register your No vote today! Make sure to visit the My Voter Page at the Secretary of State’s office to check your registration status, see a sample ballot, and locate both your early and regular voting locations.
I’ve also gotten emails and voicemails from people about other media outlets covering the story. After some good old-fashioned Google time, here’s a sampling of the coverage with synopsis quotes from each article:
“Well known Atlanta labor attorney Ed Buckley has a strong opinion of Amendment One: ‘It's a damned lie.’
Amendment One "Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to make Georgia more economically competitive by authorizing legislation to uphold reasonable competitive agreements? () YES () NO"
Buckley says the wording on the ballot is deceptive and completely misleading. 'The referendum says nothing about non-competitive agreements and says nothing about the impact on workers who will not be able to pursue their occupations if they quit or are laid off by their employer because they signed a form in order to get a job,' Buckley said.”
“Georgia voters who foresee starting their own businesses or simply going to work for a different employer in their current fields should vote "No" on Amendment 1. If for no other reason, Georgians should object to this measure based on the fraudulent wording of the ballot item.”
“A 2009 study by the Harvard School of Business focused on Michigan, which in 1985 passed a law much like that now on the Georgia ballot. By tracking patents, the study found that job mobility for inventors in Michigan fell significantly once the law changed.”
“Amendment 1 is an attempted power grab by monied interests. It paradoxically proposes to make Georgia more competitive by stifling competition.”
Comment: “The only purpose to a 2-year non-compete in such fields (or ANY field, really) is to trap workers in their jobs… taking an at-will relationship and making the at-will aspect entirely one-sided. The only two types of people who could conceivably support such a thing are: (1) business owners who know exactly what it means, or (2) fools.”
Atlanta Journal Constitution: Pro & Con: Shall voters change workplace noncompete agreements?
“The end result if Amendment 1 is approved? Overly broad non-compete agreements will dictate how and where many employees work. The economy loses because labor is prevented from flowing to the place where it is most productive. The gain? Our already clogged courts gain even more lawsuits, and our judges gain power to become activists who make up and insert completely new terms into contracts. Georgians should not surrender their rights to make way for this one-sided, pro-employer and anti-employee law at any time. But at a time when unemployment is at record levels it is especially wrongheaded.”
“The Georgia Libertarian Party, which opposes the passage of Amendment 1, described it this way: ‘This amendment would stifle growth of the economy by providing a barrier to entry to smaller, more agile firms wishing to compete in the marketplace, should they choose to employ those previously employed by a firm in that industry. While employment contracts can be an important part of an employer-employee relationship, they should not be used to punish those who seek to grow the market outside the established firms.’”
“The employee seems to become a pawn in that should they get laid off, fired, or just no longer wish to remain with a certain company, they could not pursue their current occupation with someone else. Once an amendment becomes part of the Constitution, it is near to impossible to rescind it.”
But if you’re not of the predisposition to believe everything you read in the media, there are also two critical university studies that should be the final nail in the coffin of HB173: one from the University of Toronto in 2008, and one from Harvard University in 2009. And these are not overly theoretical works – the Harvard research examines the specific case study of Michigan repealed such a law in 1985. The effect was a 15% decline in mobility for “individuals who had firm-specific skills or who specialized in a narrow range of technologies” and an 8.1% decline in the mobility of inventors (measured by patent filings.)
So let’s make sure to have all those last-minute conversations. The more any employee knows about the details of this amendment (including its incredibly deceptive language), the better we’ll all be.