Republican Split Dooms Bill on Union Crimes

A bill that critics claimed would make union organizing a felony has been killed for the year in a House committee vote that split Republican ranks.
The bill by freshman Republican Rep. Andy Holt of Dresden, HB2019, declares harassment and intimidation by “union and employee organizations” a crime.
Critics say the language is so broad that it could be used to criminalize many union organizing activities. Holt, who sponsored the bill at urging of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, described it as a way of deterring heavy-handed union activities that have occurred in other states involving threats or actual violence.
The bill had reached the House floor seven times this session when it arrived again late Thursday. House Clerk Joe McCord then cited a House rule that says any bill postponed four times or more must be sent back to the House Calendar and Rules Committee.
When the bill returned to the Calendar Committee Thursday night, Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, made a motion to send it further back to the State and Local Government Committee, which he chairs and which is closed for the year. The motion, thus, would kill the bill.
“You’re picking on our firefighters, or FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) members,” Todd told Holt. “All the things you’ve got listed in this bill – like intimidation – are already in the code books (as crimes).”
Todd said his brother, works as an association organizer, could be called in to talk about forming an association and, under the bill, “they can make him leave or say he’s threatening them and he has no recourse.” He challenged Holt to name a case in Tennessee where the proposed new law would have been needed.
Holt said he had prepared an amendment that would broaden the bill to apply to other people beyond those involved in unions or employee associations, even the Chamber of Commerce.
He described the bill as putting the state in “a defensive posture… realizing crimes are best outlawed before they occur.” Holt said the bill would also “compliment” a pending bill to stop collective bargaining between school boards and teacher unions.
House Republican Leader Gerald McCormick backed Todd, saying he thought Holt had “a pretty good bill as it stands,” but that it should be reconsidered and perhaps amended to avoid “playing political football with it.”
The vote to send the measure back to the closed committee was 13-6 with three abstentions.

2 thoughts on “Republican Split Dooms Bill on Union Crimes

  1. Ben Donahower

    I’m not incredibly familiar with this bill but with that said, when Republicans are split on a bill that would put additional restrictions on unions or union organizing, it’s probably a little much.

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