Welcome Back, An Important Note, and An Action Alert

Before we dive into the happenings of the recently-resumed legislative session, we wanted to take a moment to briefly expand on the statement sent out by President Dycus and Secretary-Treasurer Starling earlier this week. The murder of George Floyd nearly two weeks ago, Breonna Taylor, and countless other black people (who too often go unnamed) at the hands of police is sickening. Black workers have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, experiencing much higher levels of unemployment and death as a result of the virus. Our country is broken, and centuries of systemic racism that penetrate nearly every area of our lives (whether we are aware of it or not), have reached a breaking point. We'll say it again: racism in any form is disgusting, abhorrent, and has no place in our communities. As members of the labor movement united together in solidarity, we cannot sit on the sidelines in silence. Inaction is unacceptable, plain and simple. In the days, weeks, months, and years ahead, we owe it to all of our brothers and sisters of color to listen, reflect on our own actions, and recommit ourselves to the fight for economic and social justice. It is imperative that our words be backed up with action; simply regurgitating talking points is not enough. The collective solidarity of the local and central bodies, the state federation, and our partners on the national level will be needed as we fight racism, police brutality, and the inequality and injustice that has plagued the black community for too long. NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith couldn't have said it better: "Be relevant, be involved, and make sure that you are an agent of positive change." We will never stop fighting until all of our brothers and sisters, regardless of the color of their skin, are treated with the respect, dignity, and equality to which they are entitled. Anything less is a failure of our work. 

That work also includes holding our elected officials accountable, especially as lawmakers resume their postponed legislative session. From a quick glance at both the House and Senate calendars, it would be hard to tell that our country is facing multiple crises. Instead of ensuring that the health, safety, and economic security of all Tennesseans is protected and strengthened, the supermajority is more concerned with pushing their personal agendas. This includes shielding businesses from any COVID-19-related liabilities and...putting laws that have been on the books for over 70 years in the state constitution. With everything that we're all experiencing and processing right now, this is a sentence that we hoped we wouldn't have to write: Republicans are moving forward with SJR 648 (aka the "Kelsey Amendment"), which aims to enshrine Tennessee's Right to Work law in the state constitution. 

House Republicans did pull a sneak attack this week (which is not uncommon this late in session) by quietly sliding the resolution onto the tail end of this past Wednesday's House Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee calendar; the rules were suspended so that this could be done. While the resolution will now be heard in the House Finance, Ways & Means Committee this upcoming Thursday (June 11th), the good news is that Representative Larry Miller and Representative Karen Camper REALLY went to bat for labor on this in committee. 

While there are much more important things happening right now and within our movement (we are dealing with a very different world than when this was last heard), we are asking all of you to please make a quick phone call or send a brief e-mail between now and next Thursday morning if you are able to do so. We know that everyone's lives have been turned upside-down over the past few months and that this may not be doable right now. If you are able to take action, please tell the legislators below to vote NO on SJR 648!
  • If you live in West Tennessee, please contact Representative Jim Coley (District 97-Bartlett/Memphis) and/or Representative John DeBerry (District 90-Memphis).
    • Rep. Coley can be reached via e-mail or by calling (615) 741-8201
    • Rep. DeBerry can be reached  via e-mail or by calling (615) 741-2239
       
  • If you live in East Tennessee, please contact Representative David Hawk (District 5-Greeneville/Greene County) and/or Representative Gary Hicks (District 9-Rogersville/Hancock and Hawkins Counties). 
    • Rep. Hawk can be reached via e-mail or by calling (615) 741-7482
    • Rep. Hicks can be reached via e-mail or by calling (615) 741-7480
       
  • If you live in Middle Tennessee, please contact Representative Brandon Ogles (District 61-Franklin) and/or Representative Sam Whitson (District 65-Franklin).
    • Rep. Ogles can be reached via e-mail or by calling (615) 741-6808
    • Rep. Whitson can be reached via e-mail or by calling (615) 741-1864
It's important to remember that the fight does not end this year. Between now and January, we are committed to following up on our February 6th strategy meeting by getting ourselves stronger, more organized, and ready to beat this in 2021 when a 2/3 majority will be required to pass it and get it on the ballot the following year.

Monday, June 8th

House Civil Justice Subcommittee, 11:00 a.m., House Hearing Room I

House Bill 2623 (SB 2381): This is the caption bill that carries what's known as the "Tennessee Recovery and Safe Harbor Act," legislation championed by the NFIB and Tennessee Chamber of Commerce that protects businesses from COVID-19-related liabilities. The amendment that makes the bill has not been posted yet. We are brainstorming potential amendments of our own and welcome any ideas that you might have as well.
Note: This bill will also be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday (June 9th) at 3:00 p.m

Wednesday, June 10th

House Government Operations Committee, 1:00 p.m., House Hearing Room I

House Bill 2725 (SB 2738): This is a bad bill that would terminate the Human Rights Commission with no wind-down period.

House Bill 2708 (SB 2520): A good bill that we are supporting, this would enact the "Tennessee Pregnant Workers Fairness Act." 

Thursday, June 11th

House Finance, Ways & Means Committee, 11:00 a.m., House Hearing Room I

Senate Joint Resolution 648: As we noted above, this is the dangerous "Kelsey Amendment," which seeks to enshrine Tennessee's Right to Work law in the state constitution. 

House Bill 1801 (SB 1752): This bill seeks to make state correctional officers (who are members of the state retirement system) eligible for service retirement after 25 years of creditable service.