The citizens of Tennessee will have the opportunity to vote to add a “right to work” provision into the state constitution on election day this November 8.
Constitutional Amendment 1 would amend Article XI of the Tennessee Constitution to add:
It is unlawful for any person, corporation, association, or this state or its political subdivisions to deny or attempt to deny employment to any person by reason of the person’s membership in, affiliation with, resignation from, or refusal to join or affiliate with any labor union or employee organization.
As reported by The Tennessee Star, the state adopted the Tennessee Right to Work law in 1947. This resolution, its sponsors said in 2021, aims to protect the measure as a constitutional right.
“Solidifying this essential concept through this amendment will engrain this key principle of Tennessee business into our constitution,” House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) said at the time. “This will strengthen our economic standing, support our current and future workforces, and also ensure this state remains open for business.”
Twenty-eight states, including Tennessee, currently have “right to work” laws. Of those, nine have the law as a constitutional amendment.
In order for an amendment to the Tennessee constitution to be placed on the ballot for a statewide vote, it must first pass a two-thirds majority vote by the state legislature with the specific language of the amendment proposal, followed by the approval by a separate session of the Tennessee General Assembly of at least two-thirds to add the amendment proposal to the ballot for consideration by voters.
Amendment 1 – proposed as Senate Joint Resolution 648 – passed the General Assembly in 2020. In 2121, the proposal to add the amendment to the ballot passed as Senate Joint Resolution 2.
Finally, the proposal must have a simple majority of “yes” votes and that number of “yes” votes must be a 50 percent-plus-one majority of all votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.
The Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council opposes the “right-to-work” amendment proposal, claiming that it will allow employees who do not pay their dues to be part of the union to receive the same benefits as their co-workers that are a part of the union.
The union states on its website, “Having existed in our state for 75 years, ‘Right to Work’ laws are intended to silence workers’ voices in negotiations for fair wages, safe workplaces, and good benefits. By enshrining this law in the Tennessee Constitution, many working families will struggle to get fair representation at their workplaces and be at the whims of their corporate employers.”
Amendment 1, along with three other amendments, will be listed on the general election ballot, directly after the candidates for governor.
In order for an amendment to be added to the state constitution, it must receive a “yes” vote by 1,121,648 Tennesseans.
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Kaitlyn Osteen is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Send Kaitlyn news tips to [email protected].
Photo “Forklift Driver” by ELEVATE.