ALEC is coming to Nashville to take your rights away: Who are they and what can you do about it?

By Gordon Lafer

Most people assume that Tennessee’s laws come from Tennessee lawmakers.  Unfortunately, many of the laws controlling our jobs and economy don’t come from anyone we elected: they come from corporate lobbyists connected to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

ALEC is a collection of several hundred of the largest corporations in the country, with recent members including AT&T, Coca-Cola, Exxon, Kraft Foods, Wal-Mart, UPS, drug companies, Verizon, GM, Amazon, Facebook, Blue Cross, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Almost one-quarter of all state legislators in the country are members of ALEC, including 25 members of the Tennessee legislature.  Their dues are just $50 per year, with all the rest of the expenses paid by these corporations.  ALEC meets several times a year, where model laws are drafted in committees made up half of state legislators and half of corporate lobbyists.  These bills are then introduced in cookie-cutter fashion in state legislatures across the country.  The same companies that write the laws then contribute to politicians’ campaigns, run their own political ads on radio, tv and social media, and fund state-level “experts” to promote their laws.  ALEC estimates that 200 of its laws are passed every year.

ALEC works to make its corporate members richer.  Coke and Pepsi are members, and ALEC lobbies against restrictions on sugary soft drinks.  Drug companies are members, and ALEC works to prohibit importing cheaper drugs from Canada.  Payday loan companies are members, and ALEC wants to make sure there’s no limit to interest rates on such loans. 

At the top of ALEC’s agenda are measures to take YOUR rights away. ALEC attacks workers' rights by pushing bills that restrict collective bargaining rights, lower wages, destroy public pensions, silence workers' voices in the political process, and give corporations legal protections against injured workers.  In Tennessee, ALEC lawmakers have supported laws ending union rights for school teachers; slashing unemployment insurance benefits; and making it illegal for cities to create a “wage theft” court so workers can easily recover wages stolen by their employers.

ALEC used to conduct all its business in secrecy.  But a few years ago, a whistleblower turned over thousands of ALEC documents – you can now see all these documents and more, at

ALEC is having it’s annual Policy Conference in Nashville this year, December 6-8. They will be drafting bills behind closed doors that threaten our unions and our families. We need YOU to speak out against this undemocratic, unfair process!

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