Next year, Tennessee voters will have the choice to add “right to work” provisions to the state constitution.
The General Assembly overwhelmingly voted last week to put the proposed constitutional amendment on the 2022 statewide ballot.
Supporters, most of them more on the conservative end of the political spectrum, say strong legal prohibitions barring companies and workers’ unions from signing contracts requiring employees to pay organizational dues will protect individual workers.
Opponents say the laws weaken organized labor in the state, which undermines protections generally enjoyed by employees in areas more supportive of unions. They point to statistics suggesting firms in right-to-work states pay lower wages and have more workplace fatalities.
Whether good or bad for workers, Tennessee’s right-to-work law does not seem to be in jeopardy. The Republican supermajority in the Legislature and control of the governor’s mansion will likely mean the law will stand for years to come.
Still, lawmakers fear a political sea change like the one surging to the north in Virginia could eventually mean more union-positive sentiments in Nashville. A constitutional amendment would take a two-thirds majority in the legislature to reverse.
We’ll see the will of voters next year, but we’d like to start the discussion early. Should Tennessee’s constitution include a right to work provision? Why or why not?
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