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"Right to Work" Constitutional Amendment Passes the House, Cuts to Unemployment Benefits Still Moving

Alyssa Hansen
03 May, 2021
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By a vote of 67-24-1, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed SJR 0002 (HJR 0072) Thursday afternoon. If you missed it, you can read our statement here. Now, the question of whether or not to enshrine Tennessee's "Right to Work" law in the state constitution will go before the voters in November of 2022. As we noted countless times in the weeks leading up to the final vote, we expected the Republican supermajority to put relentless pressure on its members (even those who did not agree with amending the constitution) to ensure that this resolution passed. Thursday was unfortunately clear proof that sometimes the threat of losing a chairmanship or any political power, facing a primary opponent during the next election cycle, etc. can be greater than doing what's right for your constituents, even if you oppose certain legislation.

However, this vote does not take away all of the hard work that so many of you have put into this fight over the past several months. Make no mistake, the countless phone calls that were made and nearly one thousand e-mails that were sent made a major impact. In particular, we'd also like to recognize several Teamster brothers for their tireless work meeting with Republican legislators, especially as we inched closer to the final vote. Thanks to their efforts, Representative Scotty Campbell voted "NO" and Representative Bruce Griffey passed on this resolution. That's two less votes in favor of this legislation, a feat that seemed unimaginable a year ago. We cannot thank them (and all of you!) enough for speaking up for working families all across the state. No one person alone was going to stop this legislation; it was truly an all-hands-on-deck effort. To see how your particular representative voted, click here.

We'll cover some of the next steps in our post-session recap, which will be sent out in the coming weeks. To defeat this at the ballot box, we'll need ALL Tennessee voters to join us in sending a clear message: "Right to Work" does not belong in our state constitution! Rest up, and get ready for the next phase of our fight!

However, session is not over just yet! Lawmakers are still continuing to push additional legislation that would be harmful to working families. This week, the House Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee AND the Senate Finance Ways & Means Committee will hear HB 1039/SB 1402. As a reminder, this is a caption bill that would reduce the amount of time that someone could draw unemployment benefits from 26 weeks, to as low as 12 weeks. This would be the lowest amount of time in the country. While the number is dependent upon several factors, including the current monthly unemployment rate, no Tennessean could receive benefits for more than 20 weeks. Rather than ensure that Tennesseans can make ends meet and provide for their families while looking for a job, legislators want to shame them into not relying on the government for help at a vulnerable time. Working families have suffered enough and do not need yet another attack. Because the rules are suspended and legislation can move through multiple committees in one day, it's possible that this bill could be on both the House and Senate floor by Tuesday. 

Tell your legislator: don't cut Tennessee's unemployment benefits!