Tennesseans may receive explicit protections from union membership or affiliation as a condition of employment. If added to the Tennessee Constitution, the “Right to Work Amendment” would afford individuals the right to refuse membership within a union without facing repercussions concerning their employment.
In order for an amendment to be made to the Tennessee Constitution, it must be approved twice. A simple majority is all that’s needed for the first approval. Then, the second approval must occur after an election via a two-thirds majority. State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) first introduced this proposed amendment last January. The Senate passed it quickly, and was approved by the House in June. for the required second time in November.
Kelsey shared that he was optimistic that the resolution would have favorable reception in the House.
“I am pleased this has passed its final hurdle in the Senate and look forward to its passage in the House,” stated Kelsey.
Thank you to my Senate colleagues for their votes in support of my efforts to add Right to Work to the Tennessee constitution. I am pleased this has passed its final hurdle in the Senate and look forward to its passage in the House. https://t.co/NRRou4UnOi
— Brian Kelsey (@BrianKelsey) March 8, 2021
Current Tennessee law addresses union membership or affiliation as a condition of employment in the “Right to Work” statute. Kelsey argued that enshrining this measure in the state constitution would prevent “activist judges” from weakening these provisions within the law, citing a 2013 court case in which an Indiana judge ruled a state law unconstitutional.
Union membership in Tennessee has dropped steadily the last few years – by nearly 13 percent between 2018 to 2019. It dropped over this past year even further, according to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, Tennessee ranked once again in the top ten lowest states for union membership in the country.
The proposed amendment must now make its way through the House for approval. If the House passes the resolution, it will appear on the ballot when Governor Bill Lee is up for reelection in 2022.
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