Tenn. Right-to-Work Amendment causing controversy with some labor unions

Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 8:04 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee voters have passed an amendment making the Volunteer State a right-to-work state.

Nearly 70% of Tennessee voters on Tuesday voted “yes” on Amendment 1 to enshrine the 75-year-old “Right to Work” law in the state’s constitution.

“Now that this is in the constitution and they have worded it the way they have, we have legal looking into this,” said Billy Dycus, Tennessee president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO.)

Amendment 1 prohibits employers from requiring workers to become union members in order to keep their job.

However, Dycus says passing the amendment is only beneficial for corporations — and not workers.

“It is much about making sure that they can control employees in the workplace; and by putting it in the constitution, they know it’s very difficult to take it out,” he said.

Earl Fisher, founder of The Vote 901, said a law like this will impact Memphis and Shelby County residents in the workplace looking to protect their wages, benefits, and safety.

“Demographically, you have a significant number of Black people who are overworked and underpaid,” said Fisher. “You know how crucial this is when you start talking about equitable access to education... start talking about gainful employment, people who want to work one job.”

That’s why AFL-CIO, which represents 273 local unions and over 60,000 workers across the state, says it’s important to fight to try to move working people forward.

“We’ll make sure that our voices are heard at the Capitol starting in January and work to make sure there are not any anti-Work legislation that moves forward,” said Dycus.

Tennessee is now the 10th state to include constitutional protections against enforced union membership.

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