Last month, our state and nation celebrated Labor Day, a holiday that appropriately recognizes the important contributions made today and throughout our history by the American worker.
Of course, it is impossible to think about who is working today without also remembering the thousands who have found themselves without employment during this challenging time for our economy.
While our state’s recovery has, in some ways, been slower than many other states, we have continued to attract hundreds of new jobs. From Hazlehurst to Marietta, Athens to Dublin, numerous companies have announced new locations and expansions, all of which amount to more jobs for Georgians.
Why are these companies choosing our state? The answer is simple: It is a great place to do business. We offer a temperate climate, a high-capacity logistics system, and globally recognized job-training programs. Just as importantly, our elected leaders historically have understood what businesses need to succeed and, as a result, enacted laws that ensure employers the ability to operate in an efficient, profitable manner that allows them to create jobs and invest in their company’s future.
Of particular significance are those laws that govern the concepts of “right-to-work” and “employment-at-will.” Simply put, right-to-work means that an employee should be able to choose whether or not they want to join a union. Unlike what some may tell you, the law does not preclude unions from forming; rather, it prevents them from coercing workers to join or pay dues. Employment-at-will gives employers the ability to hire and fire as they see fit as long as it is done so legally, meaning without violating any discrimination or retaliation laws.
For decades, these common-sense concepts have given Georgia a competitive edge in attracting new employers, encouraging expansions and growing our economy, yet they are regularly challenged by those who oppose a free and open workplace. We cannot afford to lose an important advantage and risk not only the recovery we need so badly today, but also the economic longevity we desire for the long term.
Today more than ever, it is critical that we take every step possible to attract and create the jobs our citizens deserve. Our competition is global, and companies only will invest where they believe they have a viable future. The 2011 Area Development Survey, an independent survey of location consultants, ranked Georgia No. 1 for our labor climate, as did CNBC in their 2012 list of best states for business, helping us reach No. 9 overall on that much-watched resource.
Without question, our current right-to-work and employment-at-will laws helped us achieve those rankings, which in turn ensure that Georgia remains at the top of the list for consideration by companies around the world.
As the Georgia Chamber of Commerce works to make sure our state remains competitive, you can be sure that we will remain vigilant in our efforts to keep these laws in place so that even more Georgians can get back to work, and that future Labor Days can be a celebration for us all.
Chris Clark is the president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.