Union Station: Right to work amendment before Tennessee state House

Tennessee right to work amendment hearing scheduled in state House

The first hearing for Tennessee House Joint Resolution 72, a proposed right to work constitutional amendment, is scheduled for March 10.

About the amendment 

The Tennessee Right to Work Amendment would add the following new section to Article XI of the state constitution:

It is unlawful for any person, corporation, association, or this state or its political subdivisions to deny or attempt to deny employment to any person by reason of the person’s membership in, affiliation with, resignation from, or refusal to join or affiliate with any labor union or employee organization.

Tennessee has had a right to work law since 1947. One of the amendment’s sponsors, Sen. Brian Kelsey (R), said, “I think that this right is an important enough civil right that it belongs in our state constitution.”

In Tennessee, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment must be approved in each legislative chamber in two successive sessions with an election in between. During the first legislative session, the amendment needs to receive a simple majority vote in each chamber. During the second session, the amendment needs to receive a two-thirds vote in each chamber.

The amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 648 on Jan. 8, 2020. The state Senate passed the bill 24-5 on Feb. 10, 2020. On June 17, the state House passed the bill 68-22.

Current status and what comes next 

On Jan. 12, 2021, the amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 2. The Senate Judiciary Committee recommended the bill for adoption on Feb. 9, and the Commerce And Labor Committee did the same on Feb. 23. The bill is on the Senate calendar for March 8.   

House Joint Resolution 72 was introduced on Feb. 8 and referred to the Commerce Committee. A Banking & Consumer Affairs Subcommittee hearing is set for March 10. 

If the amendment receives a two-thirds vote in each chamber, it will appear on the ballot as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment on Nov. 8, 2022. Republicans currently hold a 27-6 majority in the Senate and a 73-26 majority in the House.

There are currently 27 right to work states. Eighteen of those states, including Tennessee, have state right to work statutes without constitutional amendments. 

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 82 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking. 

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s) 

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. 

  • Maine LD449: Existing law requires public employers and collective bargaining agents to meet within 10 days of receiving written notice of a request for a bargaining meeting.  This applies only if the parties have not otherwise agreed in an earlier contract. This bill would eliminate that exception.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Labor and Housing Committee hearing March 1. 
  • Maryland HB1321: This bill would bar employers from requiring employees to become, remain, or refrain from becoming members of a union as a condition of employment.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • House Economic Matters Committee hearing March 5. 
  • Maryland SB746: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for certain community college employees.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Senate Finance Committee hearing March 4. 
  • Missouri SB118: This bill would bar employers from requiring employees to become, remain, or refrain from becoming members of a union as a condition of employment.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Senate General Laws Committee reported favorably March 2. 
  • Missouri SB244: This bill would require employees to authorize deductions before public employers begin deducting union dues or fees from employees’ paychecks. It would also require “clear and compelling evidence that the authorization was freely given.”
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Senate General Laws Committee reported favorably March 2. 
  • Montana HB251: This bill would bar employers from requiring employees to become, remain, or refrain from becoming members of a union as a condition of employment. It would also allow employees to revoke payroll deductions for union dues at any time with written notice. 
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Did not pass second reading in the House Business and Labor Committee March 2. 
  • Montana SB228: This bill would allow a public employee to withdraw from a union and cease paying dues by providing 14 days written notice. It would also prohibit an employee who withdraws from a union from rejoining that union for one year.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Second reading in the Senate State Administration Committee indefinitely postponed March 1. 
  • Montana SB89: This bill would require a public-sector union to allow its members to leave the union at any time. It would also prohibit employers from collecting dues on behalf of unions. 
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Second reading in the Senate State Administration Committee indefinitely postponed March 1. 
  • New Hampshire HB206: This bill would establish that collective bargaining strategy discussions in which only one party is involved would not be subject to the state’s right-to-know law.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • House Judiciary Committee executive session March 2. 
  • Oregon HB2061: This bill would prohibit public employers and unions from entering into fair-share agreements.
    • House Business and Labor Committee work session scheduled for March 8.
  • Oregon HB3029: This bill would require the Employment Relations Board to develop procedures for authorizations designating bargaining unit representatives.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • House Business and Labor Committee hearing March 1. 
  • Oregon HB3300: This bill would prohibit public employers and unions from entering into fair-share agreements.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Introduced March 2. 
  • Oregon SB580: This bill would amend the law’s definition of “employment relations” to include class size and caseload limits as mandatory collective bargaining subjects for school districts.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Senate Education Committee hearing March 2.
  • Tennessee HJR0072: This bill proposes a constitutional amendment that would bar any person, corporation, or governmental entity from denying employment due to an individual’s affiliation status with a union or other employee organization.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • House Banking & Consumer Affairs Subcommittee hearing scheduled for March 10.    
  • Washington SB5055: This bill would prohibit law enforcement personnel from entering into collective bargaining agreements that prevent, prohibit, or otherwise alter local government ordinances or charters providing for “civilian review of law enforcement personnel.”
    •  Democratic sponsorship. 
    •  House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee hearing scheduled for March 10.  
  • Washington SB5133: This bill amends the definition of a “confidential employee” for the purposes of collective bargaining.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Senate passed March 2. Referred to House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee March 4. 




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