Alexander Says “Right to Work” Law Key to Protecting Tennessee Workers’ Rights and Raising Incomes

Asks Labor Secretary Nominee for Commitment to Protect “Right to Work” Law

Posted on January 9, 2009

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today asked labor secretary nominee U.S. Representative Hilda Solis to commit to preserving a key section of federal labor law that reaffirms the right of states to have Right to Work laws. During a confirmation hearing at the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Alexander pointed out that Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act has helped raise incomes for Tennessee auto employees and protect workers’ rights. Alexander made the following remarks at the hearing: Alexander Requests “Right to Work” Commitment From Obama Administration • “My question to the Labor nominee is, and I hope the answer is yes, because I can think of no question more important to workers’ rights in Tennessee or to your continued increased family incomes, does the new administration and do you support Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act, and will you oppose any attempt to change the right of states to enact the Right to Work law in the 22 states that already have such laws?” • “I hope that the president-elect does have the view that a worker should have a right to join or not to join a union, but I would like to have your response after you’ve had a chance to talk with him about whether the administration supports continuation of the ability of states to enact Right to Work laws.” “Right to Work” Laws Help Raise Incomes, Protect Workers’ Rights • “The reason Tennessee has managed to build such a strong auto manufacturing work environment in Tennessee is because Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act gives every state the option of having a Right to Work law, a law that says to its employees that you may decide to join the union or you may decide not to join the union.” • “The Right to Work law and our efforts in Tennessee to attract auto manufacturers have resulted in competition between the Saturn and Nissan assembly plants, one of which is union and one of which is not. Today one-third of all the manufacturing jobs in Tennessee are auto-related jobs, and our incomes have risen as a result of it. Even in this economic downturn, we’re deeply grateful for all those jobs.” • “In the early 1980s when I was governor of Tennessee, President Carter encouraged us to go to Japan and persuade the Japanese to make in the United States what they sold in the United States. Being a young governor and he was my president, I did just that. And the result was the Nissan automobile plant south of Nashville, which arrived in the early 1980s. The plant is still there today, and now the Nissan North American headquarters is in Nashville and an engine plant is in Tennessee, rather than in Mexico or some other place. Ford employees from Detroit were hired to come down to manage the plant. Tennesseans were hired to work in it. Two or three years later, General Motors made the largest U.S. capital investment in history when they located the Saturn plant 40 miles from the Nissan plant. It’s been a big success story and has contributed to raising incomes in Tennessee.” A full transcript of Senator Alexander’s remarks is available upon request. ###