State Senator Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) announced this week that she has signed on as a prime co-sponsor of Senate Joint Resolution 648 which would add Tennessee’s Right to Work law to the state constitution. The Right to Work statute, established in 1947, protects the rights of those who choose not to join a union. It provides workers cannot be hired or fired based on their affiliation with any labor union or employee organization.
The bill advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday by a vote of 7 to 2 with Sen. Bowling’s support.
“This resolution allows the people of Tennessee to preserve the rights of workers to make their own decisions in the workplace,” said Sen. Bowling. “It ensures that our right to work status will remain in place into the future.”
Twenty-seven other states have Right to Work laws, and nine of those have passed constitutional amendments, including neighboring states Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama. The Alabama amendment passed most recently in 2016. Another neighbor, Virginia, is presently considering repealing its Right to Work statute. A constitutional amendment would offer greater protection for workers against such repeal efforts.
“The Tennessee Chamber and our business community has remained strongly supportive of our status as a Right to Work state which is a key component establishing the Volunteer state as friendly to business,” said Bradley Jackson, President and CEO of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Embedding Right to Work permanently in our constitution sends a strong message moving forward that Tennessee is and always will be ready for business.”
If passed by the General Assembly in 2020, SJR 648 would need to pass by a two-thirds majority during the 2021 or 2022 legislative session in order to appear on the ballot for a statewide referendum in November 2022. The amendment would become part of the state constitution if adopted by a majority vote in the governor’s election.
There is also strong public support for the resolution. An October 2019 Beacon Center survey reported that 68 percent of Tennesseans favor the Right to Work policy, while 13 percent are opposed, and 19 percent remain undecided.