State Sen. Jack Johnson.

On Thursday, Sen. Jack Johnson vowed to fight against a bill currently making its way through the U.S. Senate that could threaten Tennessee's right-to-work laws, laws that have seen unanimous Republican support in the state for decades.

What are right-to-work laws?

Right-to-work laws refer to laws that limit the extent to which a union can compel employees to participate in the collective bargaining process. These laws are enforced through government intervention between employers and their respective labor unions by prohibiting union security agreements — 27 states have them.

Supporters of right-to-work laws often argue that it protects workers and their decision as to to join or not join a union, and that they create more jobs. Opponents often argue that the laws weaken the strength of collective bargaining process, and decreases wages, conditions and benefits for workers.


The bill that could pose a threat to Tennessee's right-to-work status is known as the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, also known as the PRO Act.

Having passed in the U.S. House earlier this year, the $3.5 trillion bill almost immediately reached a stalemate in the U.S. Senate. 

The bill would more or less eliminate right-to-work laws in the country among other significant changes to U.S. labor law, including forcing a number of employers to classify independent contractors as employees, granting them the associated benefits that come with being classified as such.

"We would fight it in court"

Johnson said that while he didn't believe the bill would ultimately pass, he and his colleagues were prepared to fight it.

"One of the reasons Tennessee has prospered as much as we have is because we are a right to work state," Johnson said.

"We would fight it in court, we would certainly fight it in anyway we can to preserve our right-to-work status. I don't think it will happen because that's something they cannot do through reconciliation, therefore it would be subject to the Senate filibuster. It's a concern, but I take comfort in the fact that I am confident that there are not 60 votes there to overcome the filibuster in the Senate."

While Tennessee currently has right-to-work laws in place, Tennesseans will have the opportunity to vote for or against enshrining such laws into the state constitution during the next gubernatorial election in 2022.

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