Republicans vote to strip teachers' union of collective bargaining powers

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 1:12pm

Republicans on the state Senate Education Committee voted Wednesday to strip the Tennessee Education Association of its collective bargaining powers — the first item on the GOP’s aggressive agenda to undermine the teachers’ union.

Before his bill cleared the committee on a 6-3 party-line vote, Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Brentwood, criticized the TEA as a “fierce proponent for mediocrity” and labeled collective bargaining “an albatross” hampering children’s education.

“I believe with all my heart that mandatory collective bargaining stifles teacher input," Johnson said. "Everything must pass through the funnel of the hyper-partisan, politically charged union, whose primary objective is preservation of the union and its power, not the well-being of teachers and students.”

The hearing room at Legislative Plaza was filled to overflowing with dozens of retired teachers and other TEA supporters as well as union opponents, including members of the Tea Party.

“The TEA is invariably in favor of higher taxes and bigger government. They are a political organization,” said Ben Cunningham, a Tea Party activist and anti-tax crusader.

The bill’s supporters, which include the state’s association of school boards, insisted it will foster more collaboration between teachers and administrators. Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, said he looked forward to a “collegial atmosphere of a family working together.”

“It would be totally ridiculous for the school board not to listen to the teachers,” said Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville. “Trust me, they’re going to listen to the teachers. It’s time for us to get along. I’m going to vote for this bill because I think it’s the right thing for young people.”

But the TEA said Republicans were retaliating because the union refused their demands to give more campaign contributions to GOP candidates in the last elections.

“That disgusts me,” Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, said of the Republicans’ reputed backroom demands for cash. “And then you see these bills coming.”

That caused Crowe to launch into an emotional speech in which he denied any political motivations.

“I’ve got tears in my eyes right now and I hope I get through this,” Crowe said. “I can promise you that’s not part of this. … I know that what we’re trying to do on our side of this is the right thing. We’re not trying to create a situation wherein we hurt. We want us all to work together.”

Republicans also have filed bills to unseat TEA representatives from the teachers’ pension-governing board, and end automatic paycheck withdrawals for membership dues for public employee unions. Another bill would ban labor organizations, including the TEA, from giving to political campaigns.

In state legislatures across the country, newly empowered Republicans are backing similar measures against teachers’ organizations.

36 Comments on this post:

By: gdiafante on 2/16/11 at 1:17

"Trust me, they’re going to listen to the teachers. It’s time for us to get along. I’m going to vote for this bill because I think it’s the right thing for young people.”

Lying sack of ****

By: govskeptic on 2/16/11 at 1:48

This is a long needed move by the legislature to make any
changes or attempts at true reform in this state. Good teachers
will still be able to have their voices heard loud and clear. It's
the less than dedicated and lazy pension builders that will no
longer be able to run the negotations!

By: spooky24 on 2/16/11 at 2:23

Good job Jeff only one mistake:

But the TEA said Republicans were retaliating because the union refused their demands to give more campaign contributions to GOP candidates in the last elections.

Should be:

However, the TEA said Republicans were retaliating because the union refused their demands to give more campaign contributions to GOP candidates in the last elections.

Now if we can get the rest of the writers to understand basic English grammar.

sp

By: Bellecat on 2/16/11 at 10:20

The republicans want to ban labor organizations from giving to political campaigns, but it is ok for corporations, big business, etc. to give! What a bunch of bull!

This is also going on in Wisconsin tonight. They are protesting in the streets. All very organized by republicans countrywide to bust unions and suppress labor.

Check this out
http://money.cnn.com/2011/02/16/news/economy/middle_class/?iref=NS1

By: MAmom on 2/17/11 at 12:18

Per the story: "In state legislatures across the country, newly empowered Republicans are backing similar measures against teachers’ organizations."

Incredible...simultaneous, orchestrated attacks on teachers by Republicans across the country. A full national attack on unions... starting with teachers. And it sounds like it is about to happen here, too.

Per the news 30,000 Wisconsinites turned out to support their teachers and workers rights.

Good for the people of Wisconsin for supporting their teachers and other state workers!

By: Radix on 2/17/11 at 9:24

Great move by the state. The TEA is a leach that has become a political organization at the expense of education. Get them out of the way and along with them mediocrity and status quo that goes along with unions...

By: continuum on 2/17/11 at 10:03

The Republicans have done everything except focus on the job crisis in Tennessee.

The GOP zombies have been more worried about allowing guns in bars, and stopping Shelby County school consolidation, than they have about the good of the people in Tennessee.

The righwing crazies are more worried about rewarding their super rich friends and political retaliation than in the health of the Tennesse economy.

The Republicans won't be happy until the entire state sinks to the levels of Mississppi.

By: localboy on 2/17/11 at 10:05

Isn't this the forest and trees syndrome? Do items such as tenure go away just because you strip TEA from collective bargaining rights?

By: pswindle on 2/17/11 at 10:09

TN has 52,000 teachers across this state. That does not include the families of the teachers, and they can help shape an election. Teachers need the voice of the Unions. The bottom line is that the GOP wants to do away with the unions to weaken the democratic party across this great country. We still have the power of recall and if WI keeps going down this path, the governor may be put in this position. Why take this power away becasue the teachers have the least power of all.

By: JeffF on 2/17/11 at 10:21

pswindle, if the teachers were a true unified force they would never had allowed the Republicans to be elected. They have backed the same horse for decades, even while the power of that Democrat horse has ebbed away to nothingness. Now the union is on the outside looking in at a legislature they had no part in electing.

The local teacher unions in this state have been teetering on the point of decertification for years. A sizable portion of the rank-and-file do not share the political bent of the statewide and national union leadership. You witnessed yesterday pretty much the entire population of the union-first membership and it came nowhere close to a number capable of effecting elections.

And also, the Democratic party does not need the attack of unions to be weakened. It is doing just fine on its own by reelecting chairman worthless in Tennessee and Governor Moonbeam in California.

By: frodo on 2/17/11 at 10:55

Bellecat, your comparison of unions giving to politicians and corporations giving to politicians is apples and oranges. The individual citizens who own a corporation (and who have equal rights under the constitution) do what they want with their property (company and money). Union members have little say in how their money is used and which politician it supports. They are also very vulnerable to consequences if they don't get along and go along.

By: frodo on 2/17/11 at 10:59

And about the "retaliation" thing...The Republicans are not retaliating because they don't get union money. They are making decisions based on a long and well-documented difference in philosophy. Yes, money does speak now and then to bend philosophy (as witnessed by prosecution of legislators a couple of years ago), but certain things are a matter of principle.

By: pswindle on 2/17/11 at 11:00

Jeff,
You have no idea what you are talking about. It is just the GOP talking points that all of you have. Have you ever gone into a class? Until you do, you will not understand.
All you know how to do is to belittle the other party. Gov. Moonbeam, do I need to say more. Do you remember George Bush?

By: frodo on 2/17/11 at 11:13

pswindle, I don't want answer for Jeff...he seems capable of handling himself. But your kind of thinking is what is bankrupting this country. "Have you every gone into a class?" The inference is that if we just understood it the way the teachers do, then we would spend whatever it takes to do whatever the teachers say is needed. The same line of reasoning is found in every social service sector. "If only you could see/understand/experience (fill in the blank)...then you would be willing to spend whatever it takes..." Insert hunger, disease, the environment, crime, illiteracy, homelessness, etc. We have all of these voices telling us the same thing. And now, so deep in debt that it is immoral, if not criminal, we keep on pushing our national cart toward the edge of the cliff. Well, thank goodness someone in Nashville and in Washington is saying "enough is enough." I would ask, have you seen our collective bank balance lately? If you have, then you know it is time to stop the way we've been doing things.

By: Antisocialite on 2/17/11 at 11:23

frodo said:
Bellecat, your comparison of unions giving to politicians and corporations giving to politicians is apples and oranges. The individual citizens who own a corporation (and who have equal rights under the constitution) do what they want with their property (company and money). Union members have little say in how their money is used and which politician it supports. They are also very vulnerable to consequences if they don't get along and go along.

Sorry to tell you frodo, but you have no idea what you are talking about.

In the United States, nonprofit organizations are formed by incorporating in the state in which they expect to do business. The act of incorporating creates a legal entity enabling the organization to be treated as a corporation under law and to enter into business dealings, form contracts, and own property as any other individual or for-profit corporation may do.

You are out of your element.

By: frodo on 2/17/11 at 11:59

Anti, your comment so betrays your own lack of understanding of the issues and the difference between a non-profit and a labor union that I think I will just let your words speak for themselves.

By: MetalMan on 2/17/11 at 12:07

Great news. Now maybe we can get rid of the deadbeats and they won't be able to hid behind the TEA.

By: BigPapa on 2/17/11 at 1:18

Everyone wants to change education but the second you start to address the problems everyone freaks out.
-Tenure should be at 8-10 yrs if at all.
-love the charter schools idea, why just focus on troubled kids?

I hope they push this through and let the whiners scream and moan, but in a few years people will see that there was not blood in the streets and things WILL be better. If you are a good teacher you should be ALL for these reforms.

By: Antisocialite on 2/17/11 at 1:36

frodo said:
Anti, your comment so betrays your own lack of understanding of the issues and the difference between a non-profit and a labor union that I think I will just let your words speak for themselves.

In other words, "I cannot form a cogent rebuttal so I will feign competence by attacking my opponent without actually writing anything substantial about the issue at hand."

Duly noted frodo.

By: frodo on 2/17/11 at 3:59

Anti, we have a difference of opinion. I think a company owner spending his or her resources on political principle is his or her right, but that a union boss (who owns nothing) deciding for workers how their money will be used to influence elections is historically corrupt. Your trying to make the situations equal by pointing out that a union is also a corporation adds nothing to your argument. They are very, very different kinds of corporations, based on very different sets of laws. In fact, while technically a union is a “nonprofit,” they operate under very different rules and realities than those nonprofits we most associate with the word nonprofit. The problem for workers today is that, when it comes to politics, they have become every bit as much tools and pawns of the union as they ever thought they were of the company (or school board) that employs them. And no matter what kind of corporation we want to debate, the simple fact is that we as a nation, state and various subdivisions are on the verge of bankruptcy. The debate over how much more to spend is over. There is no “more.” Allowing teachers to hold schools hostage for more money is a luxury we no longer have.

By: GUARDIAN on 2/17/11 at 9:11

GUARDIAN-Kick all the unions out of Tennessee.

By: pswindle on 2/17/11 at 11:02

TN has landed in the gutter.

By: govskeptic on 2/18/11 at 7:56

pswindle:
A hugh majority across this state have voted to get rid of the
1950's thinking that you so proudly display and apparently
still believe in! This state and country has as you say "slid
into the gutter", but formost in Education. The status quo for
the NEA and TEA would be a hugh mistake and take us
even further backwards. Reform-Reform-Reform needed now!

By: tenn40 on 2/18/11 at 8:32

Teacher unions foster an incompetent, horrible educational system in this state. Thank God I have the opportunity to sent my children to a privately run school. How about let's try something new and different so our public educational system can improve. I hope this is a first step towards that!

By: d4deli on 2/18/11 at 8:47

I'm not fond of unions, and I don't belong to one anymore. I am not fond of the NEA or the TEA, and as a teacher, I am not shy about telling my colleagues that. The real concern is that there would be nothing to fall back on. Teachers fear that if the unions are gone, then their health benefits and working environment will go downhill. If there was some other negotiating entity to replace the union, I think even some teachers would support this move. We have all seen the inaffective teachers and wished they would go away. They make us all look bad. On the other hand, I want to have good health benefits and a reasonable contract. With budget cuts, I suspect the quality of the work invironment would decline over time. No bargaining, no work stoppage, nothing to let one's voice be heard? It's like tying teachers hands behind their back and asking them to produce even more. Over time, you will find less and less folks even willing to go into the teaching profession.

By: Antisocialite on 2/18/11 at 9:04

fordo said:
I think a company owner spending his or her resources on political principle is his or her right, but that a union boss (who owns nothing) deciding for workers how their money will be used to influence elections is historically corrupt.

You've got it all wrong frodo. We are discussing corporations here, not LLC's, LLP's, or LP's, which many small businesses are, and which you seem to have described. As you should know, corporations are owned, not by one person as you implied above, but by all who own stock in that corporation. These stockholders usually select a board to oversee the day to day functions of the corporation, but there is no one owner spending his or her resources in a corporate setting, only the corporations resources. The more shareholders a corporation has the more people are being represented by whatever political principle the corporation is pushing. I will admit that there are some very small businesses that incorporate for the various tax benefits, but that in no way warrants your overly broad almost hyperbolic characterization of corporate 'owners.'

This is all completely analogous to union structure, by the way. The union (not-for-profit corporation) is owned by the workers who make up the union. These members then select, by popular vote, the delegates that they want to represent them. The delegates then go on to elect general board members, executive committee, and the executive council. So once again your characterization of one union 'boss' deciding for workers is way off the mark. There are regular votes on union business and all members are allowed to voice their opinions.

They are very, very different kinds of corporations, based on very different sets of laws. In fact, while technically a union is a “nonprofit,” they operate under very different rules and realities than those nonprofits we most associate with the word nonprofit.

You are right they are different kinds of corporations, namely that unions are 'not-for-profit,' not 'nonprofit,' as you said. However, and I apologize if this is offensive, anyone trying to debate effectively on this topic had better know the difference between these two things, and also know that there are many, many different types of 501c groups. Unions happen to fall under 501c5, while what you are calling a 'nonprofit' is most likely a 501c3. I'm sorry, but your obviously not very well versed in even the basics of this debate... come back when you have done some research.

By: frodo on 2/18/11 at 9:41

Anti, check your encyclopedia. "Non-profit" and "not for profit" are used synonymously in the real world. I don't need a lecture about a sector I've worked in at various levels and in various 501c configurations for 25 years. The main difference between a the well-known 501c3 sector and unions, for purposes of this conversation, is that a charity is in it to do good for others. A union is in it to do good for themselves. And the difference between a for-profit corporation, no matter how many people share ownership, and the place where union members work is that these for-profit owners actually "own" something and have the right to do with the company as they wish. Whereas, union members do not own the organizations they work for. Now, if you want to have a civil conversation, Anti, lets have it. But I'm done responding to someone who ends every post with an accusation that I am too ignorant to participate. Go ahead and have the last word. You're on your own now...

By: Antisocialite on 2/18/11 at 11:26

Don't worry frodo, I won't be losing any sleep over your lack of participation, but if you don't want me to call you out on your ignorance (willful or not) don't post it. As someone who has been working in these types of organization for so long you should know better than to make the extremely broad characterizations that you have been making. Just look at your own arguments, if you can call them that.

Union members have little say in how their money is used and which politician it supports.

Blatantly false, this is like saying Democrats have no say in the federal government because the Republicans took control of the house last election.

I think a company owner spending his or her resources on political principle is his or her right, but that a union boss (who owns nothing) deciding for workers how their money will be used to influence elections is historically corrupt.

Ridiculous caricature of how both unions and corporations are run.

Anti, your comment so betrays your own lack of understanding of the issues and the difference between a non-profit and a labor union that I think I will just let your words speak for themselves.

It would seem that we are both too ignorant to participate, no?

Look, I'm all for civil debate, but you are being far too disingenuous in your characterizations. You seem to accept that the 'equal rights under the constitution' are there for the owners of a for-profit corporation, but somehow want to limit those same rights of the people who own (yes own because that is what your membership dues are going towards... your stake in the union) the not-for-profit corporations. This is definitely not comparing 'apples to oranges,' as you said in your original reply to Bellecat, it's more like Granny Smith to Golden Delicious.

You cannot have your cake and eat it too.

By: pswindle on 2/18/11 at 1:32

The lawmakers do not have a clue. They are just following the GOP trap for the working class in the state. You take this away from teachers and you will be begging for teachers in a few years. NO one will go in the profession. This Johnson, who do you think you are to take this many lives into your hands.

By: tv8527 on 2/18/11 at 2:31

I agree with kicking out the unions.They only protect the worst teachers & promote mediocrity, But nothing we can do will stop any of this until parent's start taking responsibility for the children they bring into this world.If the parent's would / could teach the value of an education you would see a difference.There's no amount of testing that can fix the issue of a total lack of respect & discipline that the teachers have to put up with. That's what can cost the entire class their education.Bring back corporal punishment & if that doesn't work throw out the kids that don't care/ want to learn. Let's put them in a farm type setting & let them see what hard work is,Then give them an option of learn or be a ditch digger the rest of their live

By: CrimesDown on 2/18/11 at 7:35

This isn't about the teachers, it's about the money sucking, greedy unions.

By: LizzyD on 2/19/11 at 5:54

“I’ve got tears in my eyes right now and I hope I get through this,” Crowe said. “I can promise you that’s not part of this. … I know that what we’re trying to do on our side of this is the right thing. We’re not trying to create a situation wherein we hurt. We want us all to work together.”

OMG! They are not only distributing the "talking points," they are teaching them how to Cry on Demand!

Oh, and the subject is "children," too. A candidate, perhaps, for "60 Minutes"?

EGADS!

By: redbullrider on 2/20/11 at 10:12

5 states don't have bargaining rights for teachers and they rank 44, 47, 48, 49 & 50 in ACT/SAT scores. Wis ranked 2nd. In the states that have lost their bargaining rights they do not listen to the teachers and you see the results! I feel sorry for the children of Wisconsin, they are losing their right to a good education. The good teachers will leave Wisconsin and who could blame them?

By: redbullrider on 2/20/11 at 10:19

Hey, CrimesDown it isn't about the "greedy unions". Why are we coming down on unions? Do you know that the reason we enjoy a 40 hour week and have paid vacation time is because of the unions? The reason we do not have child labor is the unions. If your legs are crushed at work your company now has to pay workmens compensation, before unions they just sent you home to die. Why are the working class of this great country turning against their brothers in the unions and siding with millionaires who seek to turn our middle class into slaves with no rights and no money.

By: minuet on 2/20/11 at 4:17

The teacher's union is not greedy. It's just trying to get a decent wage and benefits and working conditions for its members (and nonmembers, who also benefit). And it isn't either the union or the tenure law that keeps low-performing teachers employed. It's nepotism, patronage and favoritism. I see it all the time. The teacher is married to, related to, politically affiliated with, sleeping with, or in church with someone in power who protects his/her job. Getting rid of the bargaining law won't fix the problem of nepotism or patronage. Getting rid of the tenure law won't fix this problem of nepotism or patronage. In fact, either of those options will make the situation on the ground for teachers so much worse, because then, every personnel decision will end up being a decision based on nepotism, patronage and favoritism.

By: worriedteacher on 2/25/11 at 11:15

OK. As a teacher with more than 16 years experience and a master's degree, I've got to talk about this. Minuet's comment is right on. I know that without tenure, I might have lost my job last year (My position was changed, but I wanted the final move.). Although I ended up with great Terra Nova scores, a person in power got it in for me. There was a lot of dissent, but I feel that with collective bargaining and a fair principal and superindendent I was spared. Without these things, I would have hated to see the outcome. Also, the idea that many people have that teachers are overpaid and milking the state coffers is just unfair. I am paying almost $700 a month for my family health insurance. Most factory workers, professionals, and other state workers pay less. A few years back, I sat down to actually figure how much I make per hour. By the time I counted teaching time, extra duties, sponsoring clubs, inservice and professional development, lesson planning and paper grading time at home at night and on weekends, and curriculum planning in the summer months, I figured I made a grand total of about $13 per hour. How many other professionals would spend thousands of dollars for 6 years of school for the priveledge of making that much per hour? I'm not even counting the hours spent worring about my students and my test scores. Nor am I deducting the personal money I spend on my classroom including buying the students notebooks and pencils because they don't have any. Teachers do this because we love the children. Tennessee lawmakers, please don't make us your scapegoat.