U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Georgia 12th District, visited Rolling Monkey Handcrafted Ice Cream in Statesboro last week and spoke briefly about business concerns and labor legislation with the shop’s entrepreneurs.
Gareth and Megan Clark founded the company, which will be in business for four years from November. The “rolling” part of the Rolling Monkey name reflects the fact that employees roll the specialty ice cream into cylindrical shapes after first spreading the liquid mixture on a flat surface cooled to sub-zero temperatures and adding flavorings. This is made to order while customers watch.
“Monkey” is the childhood nickname of the Clarks’ soon-to-be-16-year-old son Connor.
So far, Rolling Monkey has only one store on Northside Drive East. But the Clarks also have a “headquarters team” located at the Business Innovation Group facility downtown at Georgia Southern University on East Main Street.
“We are currently looking at a potential second location, which would potentially be the headquarters to start expanding through franchising,” Gareth Clarke said.
Rolling Monkey currently has about 30 team members, about 22 of whom are part-time employees, while two other than the Clarks themselves are full-time and others are interns or apprentices or provide contract services, Meagan said Clark. The Clarks operate an internship program from their eastern head offices while they refine their business model for scalability.
Allen, of Augusta, where he founded RW Allen Construction in 1976, now serves on the House Agriculture Committee and the House Education and Labor Committee, where he is the senior Republican on the subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and pensions. He placed an order and watched as members of the Rolling Monkey team behind the counter — store manager Isabelle Duran and shift workers Ronta Jones and Jaylee Smith — filled his cardboard cup with hand-rolled ice cream.
He ate everything but the cup and spoon while talking to the Clarks.
“Employee Bill of Rights”
Also speaking to a reporter, Allen expressed his continued support for a piece of legislation titled the “Employees Bill of Rights Act of 2022.” Allen introduced a version of it in the House last March as House Resolution 7194, while Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, introduced the Senate version.
“We already have a modern workforce,” Allen said. “Gone are the days of adversarial relations between employees and employers and that is the problem that unions have. That’s why you see unionization continuing to decline in our country, and of course the civil service unions are just getting blown up because, you know, obviously they’re civil servants.
He said unions also, like the federal government, face the problem of being “top-down, one-size-fits-all” and unable to adapt to localized conditions when “technology has made everything different.”
Among other things, HR 7194 would require a majority vote of all affected employees by secret ballot to unionize a work site or initiate a strike.
The bill would also prohibit unions from using or contributing any portion of an employee’s union dues “for any purpose not directly related to the collective bargaining or administrative functions of the contract” without the employee’s written permission . It would apparently prohibit union donations to political campaigns without employee approval.
The bill has not advanced in the Democratic-controlled Congress.
Against. The Law on Defense
Allen opposed this legislation to a bill called the Protection of the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act, which he voted against. It passed the House as HR 842 in March 2021 by a vote of 225 to 206, with only one Democrat opposed and five Republicans in favor. But the bill did not become law.
“The Democrats have the PRO Act, and what they’re trying to do is bring every business together,” Allen said last week. “And they’re doing it the wrong way. It’s competitive. In other words, they want to abolish the secret ballot. The Employee Bill of Rights guarantees a secret ballot. The secret ballot is what made this country what it is today.
In this case, the ballots are related to a unionization vote overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, not an election for public office. Currently, in an alternative process that requires the consent of the employer, the display of signed cards, which are not secret ballots, by more than half of the employees in the workplace can be accepted as union certification votes.
The full texts of both bills can be found online at /www.congress.gov/bill.
Allen is currently running for re-election in the Nov. 8 election, facing a challenge from Democratic candidate Elizabeth “Liz” Johnson of Statesboro, who was also Allen’s opponent in the 2020 general election.