The VoteNoOn1 social media effort came together shortly after I published Georgians Should Vote No in a flurry of DMs late Thursday night with Sanjay Parekh. What sparked the whole thing was Jobs of Tomorrow robo-calling to support the amendment.
Yesterday Jim Galloway of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published the content of the robo-call:
Georgia progressives have a chance to protect the rights of workers by voting yes on Amendment 1. Amendment 1 will give workers protection from being forced to sign unfair employment agreements at the workplace."
“Please take the time to vote yes on Amendment 1 at the end of your ballot. This message has been provided by the working Georgians at Jobs of Tomorrow. And we urge you to vote yes on Amendment 1.
To paraphrase Joe Wilson, the information contained in the robo-call is intentionally misleading and factually incorrect. Let's deconstruct this real quickly.
Beyond a low-cost auto insurer I am not really sure what progressive means. According to Webster's it is "making use of or interested in new ideas, findings, or opportunities." Regardless most would agree that California is a progressive state and a leader in the technology industry. California has no such law that would result from the passing of amendment one. Moreover, the empirical research supports the view that covenants not to compete have a negative effect on the formation of new companies. Legal scholars believe that contractual restrictions on employee mobility negatively affect employee turnover. They believe this led to Silicon Valley overtaking Route 128 as the technology capital of the world.
Protect the rights of workers.
I cannot decipher a single sentence in the bill that protects the right of workers. Search the bill itself for the term "rights of workers." It does not appear once. Search the bill for the term "restraint." Over 50 results. Search the bill for the term "restraint of trade." You will get 10 results. That is the core of amendment one. Restraining employees from working for other companies in the industries in which they are skilled.
Amendment 1 will give workers protection from being forced to sign unfair employment agreements at the workplace.
This is either disingenuous or naive. Here is the way it works. You look for a job. You interview. You are made an offer. You negotiate certain terms such as bonus, flextime, salary, stock, and time-off. You show up on the first day or sometime before your start date. You sign a bunch of papers to come on board. These papers include confidentiality, non-compete, and non-solicitation agreements. If you want the job you have no choice but to sign the agreements. That will not change if the amendment passes.
What happens today is this. Companies know that non-competes are not enforceable in the state of Georgia. If they brought such a case against a departing employee they would lose. So they are either smart enough to not bundle the confidentiality, non-compete, non-solicitation agreements into a single document or, if you are departing on semi-decent terms, they throw out the initial document and get you to sign a new agreement that invalidates the old one and only contains confidentiality and non-solictation agreements.
If amendment one passes this will change. Companies will still have the power to get you to sign whatever they put before you as you are on boarding. But, if you are an employee or independent contractor "in possession of selective or specialized skills, learning, or abilities or customer contacts or customer information", and nearly everyone reading FoG is, the covenant that you sign to not compete will be enforceable. You will be geographically and time limited in your next career move.
If you are Jeff Leavitt you cannot start a DLA Piper branch.
If you are Michael Blake you cannot leave Adams Capital to join HA&W.
If you are Robert Sanders you cannot leave MindSpring to join cBeyond and then leave cBeyond to join EarthLink.
But more important to me is that amendment one will destroy technology startups in Georgia.
If you are Dave Williams you cannot start BLiNQ Media.
If you are Braxton Jarrett you cannot start Clearleap.
If you are Michael Cohn you cannot start CloudSherpas.
If you are Mike Van Bruinissee you cannot start PureWire.
If you are Jamie Gallo you cannot start RentWiki.
If you are David Payne you cannot start ScoutMob.
If you are Chris Rouland you cannot start Endgame Systems.
If amendment one was in place in 1995 MindSpring would never have happened.
If amendment one was in place in 1995 the people who left Internet Security Systems to establish the Atlanta Internet security cluster would not have been allowed to do so.
This is not the future that I want.
The only job of tomorrow that amendment one protects is your current one. It will decrease your career mobility. It will decrease the amount of money you earn. It will stifle the technology base in Georgia. It will kill innovation. It will decrease the number of technology startups.
I urge you to vote against it and to tell everyone that you know to do the same.