TN lawmakers consider adding ‘right to work’ to state constitution

Tennessee House and Senate leaders introduced a resolution Wednesday that would add Tennessee’s Right to Work law to the state constitution.

Senate Joint Resolution 648 is sponsored by Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ken Yager (R-Kingston), Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Bell (R-Riceville), Finance, Ways, and Means Committee Chairman Bo Watson (R-Hixson), and Commerce and Labor Committee Chairman Paul Bailey (R-Sparta). Its companion House Resolution is sponsored by Insurance Committee Chairman Robin Smith (R-Hixson), Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland), Finance, Ways, and Means Committee Chairman Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet), Government Operations Committee Chairman Martin Daniel, (R-Knoxville), Health Committee Chairman Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro), Judiciary Committee Chairman Michael Curcio (R-Dickson), and Commerce Committee Chairman Timothy Hill (R-Blountville).

Tennessee’s “Right to Work” statute has been state law since 1947, providing workers rights to not be hired or fired based on their membership in, affiliation with, resignation from, or refusal to join or affiliate with any labor union or employee organization.

Across the nation, 27 other states have right to work laws and nine of those have passed constitutional amendments, including neighboring states Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama, which most recently passed an amendment in 2016. Virginia is considering repealing its Right to Work statute.

“Tennessee’s Right to Work laws have been critical to producing the economic growth our state has experienced over the last decade,” said Lt. Gov. McNally. “I appreciate everything Senator Kelsey has done to support the right to work in Tennessee.”

“Tennessee has been and will remain a Right to Work state,” saidSpeaker Cameron Sexton. “Solidifying this essential concept through this amendment will engrain this key principle of Tennessee business into our constitution. This will strengthen our economic standing, support our current and future workforces, and also ensure this state remains open for business.”

There is also strong public support for the resolution. An October 2019 Beacon Center survey reported that 68 percent of Tennesseans favor the Right to Work policy, while 13 percent are opposed, and 19 percent remain undecided.