‘Right to Work’ amendment sails through Tennessee Senate

Published 10:05 am Wednesday, February 12, 2020

NASHVILLE (AP) — A resolution seeking to change the Tennessee’s Constitution to enshrine the state’s “right to work” law is gaining momentum.

The GOP-controlled Senate passed the measure on Monday and must now go before the similarly Republican-controlled House.

The resolution’s main sponsor, Republican Rep. Brian Kelsey, says the constitutional amendment is needed because it will make it harder to repeal or weaken. Supporters point to Virginia as warning, where Democrats recently took over the Statehouse and are now looking to repeal its “right to work” law.

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Opponents counter the measure discouraged workers from joining unions, others argue that right-to-work states have more workplace fatalities.

Currently, 27 states have some sort of “right to work” laws and nine of those have put such provisions into their state constitutions.

Unions have little control in Tennessee and have lost organizing efforts at the Nissan manufacturing plant in Smyrna and at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga.

A “right-to-work” law prohibits a company and a union from signing a contract that would require workers to pay dues or fees to the union that represents them.

Amending the state constitution is a lengthy process in Tennessee. Proposed changes must pass by a majority in both chambers during one two-year General Assembly, and then pass by at least two-thirds of the vote in the next. The amendment would then go before the voters in the year of the next gubernatorial election.