LISTEN: On the Tuesday, June 11 edition of Georgia Today: Hotel chain Red Roof Inn is in court in Atlanta over sex trafficking allegations; Delta Air Lines shareholders demand the company stop fighting its workers attempts to unionize; and we asked, you answered: Abortion is near the top of your list of most important issues this election year.

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Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Tuesday, June 11. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, hotel chain Red Roof Inn is in court in Atlanta over sex trafficking allegations. Delta Airlines shareholders demand the company stop fighting its workers attempts to unionize. And we asked, you answered, and abortion is near the top of your list of most important issues this election year. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today


Abortion rights issues

Abortion rights issues

Story 1:

Peter Biello: As part of our 2024 election coverage, GPB is talking to Georgia voters to learn what your top issues are. And so far, we've learned you're concerned about the economy, political division, and near the top of the list, reproductive rights and abortion access. Ahead of the first presidential election since the overturning of Roe versus Wade, GPB's Sarah Kallis explains the political landscape for abortion in Georgia.

Sarah Kallis: Abortion unexpectedly became an issue in Georgia's May election. John Barrow, a challenger to Georgia Supreme Court Justice Andrew Penson, campaigned on a pro-abortion platform. While Barrow did not win, he received 45% of the vote in the statewide contest. Meanwhile, grassroots movements in other states like Florida have put abortion access on the ballot directly for voters to decide. But in Georgia, there will be no citizen-led ballot referendum on abortion.

Shae Roberts: We've seen across the country citizen-led ballot initiatives or referendums. And unfortunately, Georgia's constitution does not permit that.

Sarah Kallis: That's state Rep. Shae Roberts. She says what Georgia's constitution does allow are ballot initiatives approved by state legislators. So she filed a bill last session that would allow citizens to vote on a constitutional amendment which, if approved, would allow citizen led ballot referendums. Absent that, and in Georgia's Republican-controlled legislature, a referendum on abortion access is unlikely. So, says Roberts:

Shae Roberts: But unfortunately, in Georgia right now, our only option is for us to elect pro-reproductive-freedom candidates. If we want to see change.

Sarah Kallis: In responses to GPB's voter survey, listeners have implied choosing candidates whose abortion stances align with their own is extremely important this year. Chris Triebsch is one of those listeners. She's an attorney living in East Cobb County.

Chris Triebsch: If you know a woman, love a woman, know or love anybody, that is reproducing, you would want to protect their rights. It's just — it's, it's critical. Bodily autonomy is critical, and it's important.

Sarah Kallis: Lila Brooks is a Ph.D. candidate at Emory University researching gender and politics, and says that when abortion becomes a campaign issue in the state, more women turn up to the polls.

Lila Brooks: But in states where abortion was salient or important for the actual outcome, voting for the — based on the outcome of the election where abortion was important. I do find that women turned out to vote at greater rates than, women in states where abortion was not salient.

Sarah Kallis: Brooks examined all 50 states. She said that women, Democrats and Republicans alike, are more likely to participate in elections where abortion is salient, whether they are pro-abortion or anti-abortion.

Lila Brooks: When women feel like they've been called upon in some way, or it's their responsibility, or when women truly care about an issue, they're going to be more likely to turn out to vote and participate in politics.

Sarah Kallis: Meanwhile, both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are prioritizing abortion in their campaigns. For GPB News, I'm Sarah Kallis in Atlanta.

Peter Biello: If you have not taken our voter survey, GPB still wants to hear from you. What are your top three issues and how will they inform your vote this November? Make your voice heard and fill out our voter survey at It will help inform our coverage of this year's election.


Story 2:

Peter Biello: Jury selection was set to begin in an Atlanta courtroom today in what could be a historic sex trafficking trial against Red Roof Inn. Emma Heatherington leads the University of Georgia School of Law's Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation Clinic. She says it's the first time a national hotel brand, not just owners or franchisees, could go to trial over accusations that it had direct knowledge of human trafficking at its locations.

Emma Heatherington: It would be very hard to believe that the national corporation had really no idea, and the standard of negligence so that they knew or should have known. I mean, you can't just turn a blind eye.

Peter Biello: The lawsuit involves two Red Roof Inn locations in metro Atlanta and still could be settled, as was another case against the company last year. Red Roof Inn denies the allegations and says it's working to eradicate trafficking and exploitation.


Story 3:

Peter Biello: Shareholders for Delta Air Lines make up the latest group demanding the company allow employees to organize. GPB's Amanda Andrews reports the move comes ahead of an annual investor meeting in less than two weeks.

Amanda Andrews: Delta investor Amalgamated Bank filed a resolution with the board of directors asking the company to adopt a noninterference policy. Employees have reported threats of consequences if they choose union representation since organizing efforts ramped up in 2022. Lindsey Fritz is the bank's corporate social responsibility officer. She says there are indications many workers at Delta are dissatisfied.

Lindsey Fritz: Respecting worker rights to freely associate, bargain collectively and work in a safe and healthy environment has been shown to have positive effects for both workers and companies, and may help investors secure more stable returns in challenging environments.

Amanda Andrews: Delta investors will have the opportunity to vote on the resolution before the meeting on June 20. For GPB News, I'm Amanda Andrews.


Story 4:

Peter Biello: The city of Savannah is rolling out a new campaign to cut down on graffiti and beautify busy streets. As GPB's Benjamin Payne reports, the effort centers around so-called traffic cabinets.

Benjamin Payne: They're those big metal boxes you sometimes see on your stoplights, which on the inside has electrical components for traffic signals, but on the outside they often attract graffiti. To try to deter tagging, Savannah officials are covering two dozen traffic cabinets with graffiti-resistant, easy to clean vinyl laminates, and on those laminates are archival images showcasing the Savannah of yesteryear. Luciana Spracher is the city's director of municipal archives. She calls the new programÚ

Luciana Spracher: A win-win to address the graffiti issues, but also to support community history. It was a lot of fun to tie those locations to images that were specific to those areas.

Benjamin Payne: For example, a traffic cabinet near Forsyth Park now displays an old photo of the iconic Forsyth Fountain, circa 1902. For GPB News, I'm Benjamin Payne in Savannah.



Story 5:

Peter Biello: Four years after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, state health officials are closing the last remaining COVID-19 community testing sites. The Georgia Department of Public Health said yesterday the sites will close at the end of the month. They've largely been replaced by kiosks that dispense testing kits for both COVID-19 and influenza. A map of kiosk locations can be found at

Story 6:

Peter Biello: A divided commission in metro Atlanta's Cobb County, has agreed to ask local voters in November whether they want a 30-year, 1% sales tax to fund public transportation improvements. The 3 to 2 vote this morning was along party lines, with Democratic County Chairwoman Lisa Cupid leading the yes votes.

Lisa Cupid: What it comes down to is do we perceive that the future is worth it, that the opportunity is worth it? Yes, the details do matter, but the opportunity and the vision also matters.

Peter Biello: Republican commissioners questioned the length, cost and need for the tax. Cobb County voters have shot down public transit taxes twice in the past three decades. But local Democrats hope the latest proposal and the county's shifting politics will produce a different outcome this year.


Story 7:

Peter Biello: Gov. Brian Kemp is on his way to South Korea IN his sixth overseas trip as governor. Kemp left late last night for a roughly 10-day trip to the Asian nation. State officials say the governor plans to visit with South Korean businesses that either do business in Georgia, or might open locations in the state.


Story 8:

Peter Biello: A growing number of suspects is facing felony charges in a shooting in Savannah last month that injured 11 people. Savannah police are seeking two men on arrest warrants, charging them with aggravated assault and other crimes stemming from the violence. That's according to a police spokesman. And that is after police made their fifth arrest in the case last week. Savannah Police Chief Lenny Gunther has said a late-night argument between two women led to multiple shooters opening fire in the city's Ellis Square on May 18.


Story 9:

Peter Biello: The James Beard Foundation presented its annual awards for outstanding restaurants and chefs at a ceremony in Chicago yesterday. Only one Georgia restaurant or chef was up for recognition, and although Atlanta Thai restaurant Talat Market didn't win in its category, Atlanta food writer Mike Jordan picked up a media award for three stories published in Atlanta magazine.

Mike Jordan: This is really not just my award. Atlanta is the biggest underdog in this culinary scene. I argue with very famous people about Atlanta's dining scene all the time.

Peter Biello: Six Georgia chefs have won Best Chef Southeast since 2003. The James Beard Awards are one of the restaurant industry's top recognitions, known as the Oscars of food.


Story 10:

Peter Biello: In sports, the Atlanta Braves are in Baltimore today to face the Orioles in the first of a three-game series. Max Fried is scheduled to get the start for the Braves. Fried struck out 13 batters in his most recent outing, which is a career high. And in college baseball, the Georgia Bulldogs lost to N.C. State yesterday, 8 to 5, in Game 3 of the NCAA Baseball Athens Super Regional. And though they won't advance to the College World Series, the Bulldogs finished the 2024 season with a record of 43 and 17, their best since 2019. In basketball, Atlanta Dream head coach Tanisha Wright will serve as a scout for the 2024 USA Basketball Women's National Team at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. USA Basketball made the announcement today. The women's national team will pursue their eighth consecutive gold medal and 10th overall, in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

Homer Rice of Georgia Tech

Homer Rice was athletics director at Georgia Institute of Technology.

Credit: Georgia Tech

Story 11:

Peter Biello: And finally, former Georgia Tech athletic director Homer Rice has died. The university announced his death last night. Rice was athletic director from 1980 to 1997. Under his leadership, the Yellow Jackets won 15 ACC championships in five sports. The university says he implemented the Total Person program out of his belief that excellence comes from a balanced life. It's now regarded as the model for the NCAA Life Skills Program. Homer rice was 97 years old.


Peter Biello: And that is it for this edition of Georgia Today. If you want to learn more about any of these stories, visit And if you haven't subscribed to this podcast yet, I highly recommend you do it now. We will be back automatically tomorrow in your podcast feed if you do. And if you've got feedback, we would love to hear from you. Send us an email. The address is I'm Peter Biello. Thanks for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.


For more on these stories and more go to GPBorg

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