NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Backed by high-profile Republicans, the work is being laid to get Tennesseans to enshrine a “Right to Work” amendment into Tennessee’s constitution.
Governor Bill Lee declared this week “Right to Work” week, an effort to use his office to elevate the conversion about the amendment to the constitution, voters will have to decide in November.
The list of notable Tennessee Republicans backing a “Yes on 1” initiative is long and includes former and current GOP lawmakers from governors to business leaders.
“We think ‘Right to Work’ is one of the reasons our economy has been strong, as a state, up there with lacking a state income tax, it’s one of the biggest things that employers look at when relocating, when investing and expanding,” said Justin Owens, executive committee member for ‘TN Right 2 Work’.
The organization is providing advocacy and support for the constitutional amendment.
“There are a lot of misconceptions that ‘Right to Work’ means you can be fired for any reason, that’s a completely separate law that’s called employment-at-will. Right to Work is really simple, all it says is that if you want to join a union and pay dues, you should be allowed to do so and can’t be fired for doing so. If you don’t want to join a union and pay dues you shouldn’t be prohibited from doing so,” Owens said.
Tennessee already has a ‘Right to Work’ law on the books.
“It’s really interesting to me that they’re pushing this constitutional amendment — you know this has been a law for 75 years under Republican and Democratic control legislators and repealing it has never been on the table,” said Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville).
The current law says in part “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 of any kind” is unlawful.
“We should reserve amending our state’s constitution for very important things that need to be addressed I think this whole initiative is nothing but political points scoring with some big corporate donors and corporate interest in, really we’re wasting time in failing to address the needs and focus on working families,” Clemmons said.
Governor Lee is out front making videos to ensure when Tennesseans go to the ballot in November, voters will support “Yes on 1” a ballot the 50th governor will likely be on in his re-election bid.
The Tennessee AFL-CIO is opposed to the “Yes on 1” measure and is leading a “Vote No on Amendment 1” campaign. Saying the law would widen the ability for companies to terminate workers at any time and without reason.