Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed the Beacon Center’s CEO, Justin Owen, to the newsmaker line to discuss the organization’s push for Tennessee to protect the right to work for all and safeguard against federal government usurpations.
Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line right now by a very good friend, Justin Owen, the CEO of the Beacon Center here in Tennessee, and an attorney graduate of the University of Memphis School of Law.
And so the message today is we have a constitutional amendment coming up for the state here in Tennessee in November.
It’s Amendment Number One. It’s designed to protect the right to work for all. Tell us a little bit about this amendment, Justin Owen.
Owen: Good morning, Michael. Thanks for having me on. And I’m glad to chat about this. This is a very important issue that voters are going to hear a lot about over the next couple of months.
And as we look at things that are happening across the nation, you’ve got President Biden calling for banning right-to-work laws nationally. The U.S. House has even passed a law called the Pro Act twice now in an attempt to do so.
Fortunately, the Senate hasn’t gone along. But here in Tennessee, we believe in the protection of right to work. We believe that this has been a Tennessee tradition first passed 75 years ago.
And ultimately all it means is that you can’t be forced to join a union and pay dues. And we’ve benefited from that significantly in Tennessee.
If you look at our economy, states like Tennessee have higher employment growth, higher income growth, and certainly higher population growth, as people are fleeing states like California, Illinois, and New York, that are forced unionization states.
So this is something that we believe really strongly, and we believe this decision should be left in the hands of Tennesseeans. And fortunately, they’ll have a chance to do that here.
Leahy: Isn’t the right to work already established in the Tennessee? In other words, you don’t have to join a union and pay dues in order to get and keep a job. Why the need for a constitutional amendment? And why vote “yes” on One because of that?
Owen: A couple of things. One, we think that it’s so important that we need to elevate it to a constitutional right. Do you remember we did this with the income tax back in 2002? Fortunately, we struck down an income tax or decided not to pass one in the state.
That came very close to happening. And so legislators said, not only are we not going to have an income tax, we’re going to ban one in the state constitution so we can send a message to those people and businesses who want to come here.
We’re going to protect that. Your right to keep your hard-earned income for generations to come by putting that in the constitution, that ban in the constitution. We think that it’s time to do the same thing with the right to work.
Our current state legislature is friendly. They’re not going to appeal on the right to work. But a simple majority vote of the legislature could get rid of this.
And so, 20, 30 years down the road, if things look different, then we might be facing a situation like that. The best thing to do is to act now, put this in the constitution, protect us as a constitutional right against those future attacks and against the tax that is currently happening in Washington, and push back against Joe Biden.
Leahy: Well, yeah. Yeah, there you have it. Now we have this overreaching usurpation of state’s rights and individual rights by the national federal government. You see it all over the place. We’ll get to more of that here in a bit.
To have a constitutional amendment passed, there’s a lot of political support that has to happen between now and November 8th of this year. What does it look like? How is the effort to pass this right-to-work amendment – “yes” on One, Amendment Number One, to be on the ballot on November 8th – how’s it going, and what level of opposition are you seeing to it?
Owen: Well, this is a long process, and rightfully so. It shouldn’t be easy to amend the constitution, right? But first of all, the legislature had to pass this twice – the second time by a two-thirds majority, which they did last year – to even put this on the ballot for voters.
And now a majority of voters who vote in the governor’s race have to vote “yes” on this in November. So we’re doing everything we can to get the word out. Governor Bill Lee is our statewide chairman. Former Governor Haslam is our treasurer.
So we’ve got business community support from moderate and conservative Republicans all across the board. All of our legislative leaders are out there working on this, championing this. So we’ve got a lot of support.
We do believe that we’re going to win this, but the unions are fighting back. They fight these kinds of things not only nationally, but right here on the ground in Tennessee.
Leahy: Who are the leading unions opposing this? Teachers’ unions, perhaps others?
Owen: Actually more AFL-CIO is in opposition to this. You’ve got all of your alphabet soup of unions who fight this. Frankly, you should have a right to join a union. And we’re not against unions by any means. The right to work is not anti-union.
But many of those unions, especially the union bosses, want people to have to pay dues to the union, even if they’re not members. And we just fundamentally disagree with that. They’re going to fight on their side.
And frankly, they’re not even talking about the right to work. They’re trying to mislead voters and tell them that, oh, right to work means you can be fired for any reason. That has nothing to do with right to work.
Leahy: Totally misleading. Justin, I’m shocked. (Laughter) I’m shocked that the opponents of this are misleading the people about what it’s about. Now, I mentioned at the beginning of this interview that you are an attorney.
Owen: Don’t hold that against me.
Leahy: Well, I’m going to shift gears here for a moment, we can’t ignore this. What happened yesterday when the Federal Bureau of Investigation apparently secured a search warrant signed by a federal judge, apparently, and conducted a raid on the private residence of former President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago, unprecedented in American history.
To me, Justin, this looks like a vast abuse of power by Attorney General Merrick Garland, the Biden maladministration, and FBI Director Christopher Wray. As an attorney, what are your thoughts about this?
Owen: I think you nailed it. It’s unprecedented. I don’t recall ever a time where a former president had this happen to them. And it’s just another example of the overreach that we’ve been talking about. We’ve also got the IRS hiring, what, 86,000 new enforcement agents.
This is using the federal government as a political machine against a former president, but all the way down to average people, it’s not going to stop at Mar-a-Lago.
And I think that it’s time to push back against Washington, whether it’s the FBI or IRS or whether it’s doing things like putting Amendment One on the constitution so that we can say Tennesseans are going to stand up. Tennesseans are going to stand up.
We’re going to fight back against these attempts at overreach and consolidate all of this power in Washington. And it’s time to do something about it.
Leahy: So your key message for us today is for voters on November 8th to go into the ballot and vote “yes” on Amendment One to protect the right to work in the state of Tennessee to make it part of the constitution.
And this would permanently state that Tennesseans cannot be forced to join a union and pay dues in order to get or keep their job. So that’s your main message today.
A lot of other legal stuff going on here. I note that the [state] supreme court started yesterday and held hearings here in Tennessee for the six attorney general candidates. Do you have any thoughts on that process?
Listen to the interview:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.