Americans for Prosperity Tennessee’s Deputy State Director James Amundsen Discusses the Right-to-Work Amendment

Live from Music Row, Friday 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 Deputy State Director James Amundsen at Americans for Prosperity Tennessee to the newsmaker line to discuss his recent op-ed and explain right to work and why it’s important to remain as law in the state.

Leahy: On our newsmaker line right now, our very good friend for many, many years, James Amundsen, deputy state director for Americans for Prosperity, Tennessee. Good morning, James.

I see you have an op-ed at The Tennessean of all places, Amendment One Will Keep Washington’s Will From Being Imposed on Tennessee Workers. Good morning, James.

Amundsen: Good morning, Michael. Thank you for having me on the show and giving me the opportunity to talk to your listeners and encourage them to support this amendment.

Leahy: James, you’ve been fighting for liberty here in Tennessee for a long time, and this Amendment One is a very important constitutional amendment on the ballot on November 8th. Tell our listeners why they should vote yes on Amendment One.

Amundsen: Absolutely. As you indicated, Michael, Americans for Prosperity has been advocating for right to work in Tennessee long before this amendment was considered. It’s been part of our state’s success story for the last 75 years.

And the last thing we want to do is let this law somehow be challenged by future lawmakers, as we saw just a year ago in the state of Virginia, where they similarly had right to work on their books for quite some time, and the delegation of Virginia representatives was trying to repeal that law.

Leahy: Exactly. By the way, just for our listeners, James, can you clarify for them what we mean by right to work?

Amundsen: There’s a very clear distinction between right to work and at-will employment. At-will employment just simply means that an employer and an employee have the right to end it there or begin their employment. That’s just an agreement between employer and employee right to work.

Those are sets of laws that basically protect an employee from any kind of discrimination based on whether or not they choose to join or not join a labor union. And that just protects our workers from forced unionization, as we’ve seen occur in many other states where workers can’t even get into a particular job unless they were members of a union, or if they’re already working for that company, they may be forced to join a union against their will.

Leahy: A very good explanation, James. Now, this has been a statute, a law in Tennessee, and you write in your op-ed since 1947, we actually had passed legislation here about a state income tax getting rid of the state income tax.

But in order to avoid any potential legal challenges, that state income tax ban is now part of our state constitution. And the idea, I think, is you want to follow that pattern here with right to work laws and make it part of our Constitution.

Amundsen: That’s right. You bring up the state income tax. Yes, we put that in our state constitution. But people need to remember that the threat of a state income tax wasn’t coming from the left. We actually saw a Republican governor that was proposing a state income tax.

So you never know where the fight is going to come from. So one of the benefits of having this in our state constitution, as you suggest, is that, yes, it protects Tennesseans from internally.

Leahy: James, let me just interrupt for just a moment. As you know, the original star panelist Crom Carmichael is here in studio. And when you mentioned the Republican governor back in 2000 who proposed a state income tax, Crom’s eyes lit up. He’s just got to say something about this.

Amundsen: Please do, James.

Carmichael: I’m all for voting yes on Amendment One, so let me get that out of the way. But to say that Republicans were also for the income tax, let’s remember Don Sundquist ran for reelection claiming that an income tax would pass over his dead body.

Then two months later, before the State of the State he advocates in favor of a state income tax. He only told one Republican in the legislature, who then introduced the bill in the state Senate. Then the Republican Party called an emergency meeting, and the party itself voted 105 to nothing to oppose Sundquist.

But I will say this. Now that we have the chance of looking back at history, Don Sundquist in his own clever little way, did more to help the Republican Party in Tennessee than any other single person in the last 100 years because by coming out for an income tax and having Democrats think that they could actually pass one, he got them all to stand up and say, we’re for a state income tax and that was the beginning of their demise. (Laughter)

Leahy: Well, there you go, James. You’ve made his day by bringing that up again. I want to talk about how what yes on One does to make to continue Tennessee’s leadership as a state where freedom and economic growth continue.

My thought on this is simply this is an opportunity for the people to have their say, When it comes to our constitutional amendments, that’s actually something that’s going to be on the ballot.

This protects our Tennessee citizens from any future state legislature from overturning our long-standing rights work laws. These are the laws that have helped Tennessee become one of the most prosperous states in the nation. We are surely one of the lowest tax.

In keeping this as a permanent part of our state laws ensures that Tennessee continues to be that prosperous state. At the end of the day, that’s what Americans for Prosperity is all about. It’s in our name.

We are a grassroots organization. We fight for free market economic policies. And this is absolutely one of those important policies that we want to see just be instituted and well enshrined in our state constitution.

Leahy: And James, that’s a very good point you make because moving it into the Constitution protects it from the foibles of, let’s say, right now, we have a supermajority of Republicans in the General Assembly.

But you never know what might happen in the future, especially James, as you see big corporations moving in here and setting up operations. 10 years from now or some point in time from now, there could be people that kind of say, well, we want to change that law.

It would be virtually impossible to eliminate this right-to-work provision if it became part of the Constitution or at least much more difficult. Your thoughts on that?

Well, yes, that’s definitely one of the benefits of having this Constitution. But let me remind you that these companies are moving to Tennessee not because they want to bring unions, I would suggest that they are coming because we are a right-to-work state, and they’re trying to leave states that have forced union laws.

So my hope is that those companies would actually become advocates for right to work rather than bring those kinds of policies to the state of Tennessee.

Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “James Amundsen” by James Amundsen.


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