President’s Message

Tennessee Lawmaker’s Right to Work Legislation is Self-Serving

The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, the NFIB, and the Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council.

One of these things is clearly not like the others.

Despite the many obvious differences, there is one major link between all three organizations.

All of these groups charge some kind of fee (or dues, in the Tennessee AFL-CIO’s case) to belong and to protect their members’ interests.

Over the past several weeks, it has become abundantly clear that Senator Brian Kelsey believes that workers in the Volunteer State need to be protected from the supposed (yet incredibly false) threat of unions by introducing SJR 648, which proposes adding Tennessee’s Right to Work law to the state constitution.

Before we examine the reason why Senator Kelsey is championing this legislation, let’s have a brief history lesson.

Tennessee has been a Right to Work state since 1947, just two years after the end of World War II.

The phrase “Right to Work,” however, is nothing more than false advertising at its finest.

In reality, if you are employed in Tennessee and a union represents your workplace, you can choose not to belong to the union while still reaping the benefits of an actual member.

Workers who do belong to a union in Tennessee (and any Right to Work state for that matter) choose to do so voluntarily and pay dues that allow leaders to represent their members’ interests.

On the other hand, workers who choose not to belong and have their rights violated or are disciplined at work are guaranteed union protection and representation by law.

In other words, it’s freeloading.

I think if you would ask either of the other two organizations that I mentioned if they would handle the business of a non-paying member, they would say “no.”

Thanks to Tennessee’s Right to Work status, unions do not have that option.

This brings us to the million dollar question: if this law has been on the books for over 70 years and is already strong enough, why go through all of the trouble to enshrine it in the state constitution?

For an answer, look no further than Senator Kelsey’s employer: The Liberty Justice Center, a Chicago-based law firm.

When he’s not eroding workers’ rights in Tennessee, Senator Kelsey travels throughout the country suing various unions in an attempt to recoup dues that were collected prior to the Janus vs. AFSCME decision handed down by the Supreme Court in 2018.

Along with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the Liberty Justice Center served as the lead counsel on that case.

Because Senator Kelsey is on the payroll of one of the most anti-labor law firms in the country, it is extremely clear that this is a blatantly self-serving piece of legislation.

There’s no need for the Liberty Justice Center to hire a lobbyist when they have a state senator doing their bidding.

Instead of sponsoring legislation that directly benefits his employer, Senator Kelsey and his anti-labor colleagues should focus on improving the lives of working families.

While hospitals are closing their doors, poverty rates are rising, public schools are remaining underfunded, and wages are staying stagnant, Senator Kelsey’s sole focus is ramming a self-serving resolution through the legislature.

His true priorities are on full display, and frankly, it’s disgusting.

Stop pushing legislation that is a blatant advantage to your employer and start caring about the issues that matter to all Tennesseans.

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