Protecting Right to Work for generations to come


January 14, 2020 10:37AM

Last week, legislative leaders announced their intention to place our state’s long-standing Right to Work policy in the state Constitution. Beacon believes that Right to Work is so fundamental to our economic success that it deserves constitutional protections.

First, what is Right to Work? Put simply, workers cannot be fired or penalized for refusing to join a union and pay union dues. Ultimately, it’s about protecting worker freedom. If a person wishes to join a union and pay dues for the union’s representation, he or she has every right to do so. We fully support workers’ ability to make this decision. 

But if a worker wishes to remain independent and not contribute his or her hard-earned income to union dues, he or she should not be forced to do so. That’s precisely the decision that our Right to Work law protects. 

Right to Work has been the policy of Tennessee since 1947 and like other states that have adopted this policy, we have reaped the economic benefits of it. Studies show that Right to Work states have higher real income growth, employment growth, and population growth. Beacon believes that, along with banning a state income tax and enacting strong tort laws, Right to Work is one of the three most important policies that have led to our state’s economic strength. It should be protected at all costs, and the best way to do that is to elevate it from a state law to a fundamental constitutional right.

A recent poll Beacon conducted shows that our fellow Tennesseans agree. Nearly seven in 10 Tennesseans support our Right to Work law and would vote to place it in the state Constitution. With some national politicians—even presidential candidates—vowing to ban Right to Work nationally to appease their union support base, now is the time to act. Elevating Right to Work to a constitutional right will help protect Tennessee workers’ freedom against these attacks.

A constitutional amendment process is lengthy. In order to give Tennesseans the ability to vote on this, the legislature will have to pass a resolution in 2020 by a simple majority vote, then again in 2021 by a two-thirds majority vote. It will then be placed on the ballot for voters to decide in the November 2022 election. But if this happens, Right to Work will be enshrined in the Tennessee Constitution where it belongs, protecting worker freedom for generations to come.