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Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 12:09pm

Lawsuit Alleges Kia Anti-Union Bias

Former autoworkers are suing the state of Georgia. They claim lawmakers conspired with Kia Motors to avoid hiring employees with union backgrounds. The lawsuit accuses lawmakers of helping cover up Kia’s bias against former union workers.

The workers first sought records last year to learn how the state’s technical college system helped Kia hire workers for jobs at its West Point car plant.

Under the Quick Start program, college officials held 10,000 Kia job interviews. The lawsuit says that 150 former union autoworkers applied for jobs.

But Kia hired only one person with a union background, according to testimony company officials gave to the National Labor Relations Board.

Gerry Weber represents the autoworkers. He says in March, lawmakers changed an open records bill to keep his clients from accessing the information.

“There was an exemption slipped in that was specifically about the records we requested and there was a section to the legislation that was added that made only that exemption retroactive to any pending lawsuit,” he said in an interview.

The lawsuit seeks the repeal of that section of the law, which Weber says violates the state’s constitution.

But Lauren Kane, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Sam Olens, says the change was not hidden.

“It was publicly presented at a Senate hearing and the entire bill was available in its final form for a well over a week before its final vote," she said in an interview. "And this bill, to be quite honest, had more stakeholder and public input than any legislation has had in a long time.”

Olens began lobbying to overhaul the state's open records and open meetings act last year. He worked closely with press organizations and others before and during the 2012 legislative session, which ended on March 30.

Governor Nathan Deal has already signed the bill into law, which will force government boards and commissions to hold all final votes in public. That means they can’t vote in closed-door executive sessions.

The former autoworkers filed the lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court. They had worked at Atlanta’s GM and Ford plants, unionized factories that closed last decade.

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