A bill that would bolster Tennessee’s current Right to Work law by having it written into the state constitution is set to be voted on later this year. Right to Work laws end forced unionization schemes where employees are forced to join a union as a condition of employment.
One of the defenders of the initiative, State Senator Brian Kelsey, raised a valid point in the Tennessean:
“People are moving from non-right-to-work states to right-to-work states. This is part of the reason we’re growing. By enacting this constitutional amendment, you would make it much more difficult (for it to be repealed).”
According to research from the National Right to Work Committee, states with Right to Work laws experience more job growth, have more people moving to them, and have higher levels of disposable income. Tennessee’s current Right to Work law has been on the books since 1947.
For this law to become a constitutional amendment it has to go through several procedural hurdles. It must garner support from a simple majority of the General Assembly and be approved by at least two-thirds of the overall legislature this year. From there, it can be placed on the ballot for a statewide referendum.
Tennessee’s decision to enshrine Right to Work in its constitution is largely motivated by the Democrat takeover of the Virginia General Assembly. During the 2019 elections, Virginia Democrats made it a point to call for the repeal of Virginia’s Right to Work law. With complete control of the Virginia state government, this will likely become a reality. So, it does make sense why Tennessee lawmakers are looking to make Right to Work a part of the state’s constitutional order.
Sun Belt states like Tennessee have made a name for themselves with their pro-business climates that allow enterprises of all shapes and sizes to operate freely without having a massive state breathing down their necks. Tennessee is among the most economically free states in the country with an overall economic freedom ranking of 2nd place, according to the Cato Institute’s Freedom in the 50 States index.
Right to Work laws are a practical check against the federal powers Big Labor has wielded since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 — which established compulsory collective bargaining. Since the federal government has no desire to reform its labor policies, it will take state-level action to fight back. Right to Work laws does a solid job of restoring several aspects of the freedom of association that Americans have gradually lost since the New Deal era.
Having Right to Work protected by the Tennessee Constitution would be a significant victory for the state and would solidify its pro-commerce status.
In doing so, it can continue to position itself as one of the most economically free states in the country.