Why Tennessee needs to remain a Right to Work state


September 17, 2020 3:00PM

People move from other areas of the country to Tennessee for many reasons: no state income tax, relatively low property taxes, and business-friendly policies. One of those policies that often does not get the recognition it deserves is the Right to Work: a policy that allows workers to choose whether or not they join a union and pay union dues. Over the last 57 years, 27 states have enacted Right to Work policies, but Pennsylvania is not one of them, which is one of the reasons that brought Robert S.* to Tennessee. 

During the mid-80s, Robert worked as the Manager of Administrative Services in the U.S. corporate office of an international manufacturing company, which employed 25-35 hourly employees working in the internal sales and warehouse areas. During his time with the company, union bosses arrived on two separate occasions in an attempt to get workers to unionize. 

On the first occasion, picketers of the roofers’ union showed up because Robert’s company had a non-union contractor working on their building’s roof. As a manager at this facility, Robert became concerned for his employees’ safety, as they were being harassed when they arrived for work by picketers at the parking lot entrances. Several of the workers were afraid to come to work in the days that followed out of fear of being harassed by union members. In the end, Robert was able to work out a deal—in a civil manner—by replacing the non-union roofing contractor with a union contractor, at a large increase in cost. The second interaction a few years later did come to as quick of a resolve.

The second union attempt to organize employees was by representatives from the Warehouse Workers’ Union. The union was permitted by the NRLB to try to recruit both office workers and warehouse employees—everyone on the premises but management. For several weeks of picketing and harassment of employees, the union promised higher wages and better benefits to the employees, while the company was advised that they were not allowed to interfere, as NRLB regulations prohibited them from disputing any of the union’s promises or make any promises of their own. 

The campaign by the union representatives continued for several weeks before employee voting took place, overseen by an NLRB representative. Votes were count and then recounted by the NLRB representative. Then the NLRB representative asked for a private room in the facility, along with a complete list of the hourly employees. He then had Robert call each voter into the room individually. Robert later found out the reason for that unusual development – every single vote was a “NO” vote, which was an outcome that was absolutely unheard of by the NLRB! The workers had overwhelmingly chosen what was best for them—no union.

In Pennsylvania, where Robert spent some of his career, workers are not protected by Right to Work laws. We can see from his experience why it is important that we protect the right to work for our workers in Tennessee. No one should try to earn a living under the premise that they have to pay dues to a union to do so. Tennessee is already a Right to Work state. Let us make sure it stays that way. 

*Name has been changed at the request of the individual.