Senate leaders reject compromise on collective bargaining bill

Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 2:57pm

State Senate leaders rejected a compromise backed by the governor and vowed Thursday to press ahead with their attempt to repeal the collective bargaining rights of public school teachers.

With the Tea Party demanding that lawmakers stand firm against the teachers’ union, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey issued a strong statement in support of legislation to end collective bargaining.

It’s the first time Ramsey and Haslam have butted heads since Haslam defeated the Senate speaker in last August’s Republican gubernatorial primary.

“Last November, Tennesseans issued a mandate to the Republican majority to institute bold and meaningful education reform,” Ramsey said. “Senator Jack Johnson’s bill to outlaw locking taxpayers into funding union contracts is a prime example of the kind of reform Tennesseans have requested. The Senate remains committed to answering the call of the voters and hope[s] to ultimately see this reform reflected in the law.”

Memphis Tea Party leader Mark Skoda, meanwhile, denounced the deal on the bill that was brokered by House Speaker Beth Harwell and unveiled Wednesday.

Under the House proposal, the teachers’ union — the Tennessee Education Association — could continue to negotiate with various state school boards over base pay and benefits, but not certain incentive compensation plans or personnel decisions such as school assignments, transfers and layoffs.

Also, the bill now makes it easier for teachers to decertify the TEA as their bargaining agent, requiring the signatures of 30 percent rather than 50 percent of those covered by an agreement.

Skoda called the TEA “a slush fund” for Democrats and criticized Haslam for failing to follow the lead of governors in Wisconsin, Florida and elsewhere who have acted aggressively to undermine teachers’ unions.

“Haslam has shown no leadership in this matter,” Skoda said. “The other governors who have stood up on this issue are on the side of the people. This is exactly what we expected Beth Harwell to do. It’s regrettable. The Tea Party certainly will challenge this. We need to make our voices heard.”

Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Brentwood, said Thursday he won’t accept the House compromise, at least not immediately. He said he will try to enact an outright repeal of collective bargaining in the Senate. If the House adopts the compromise bill, “we’ll see what happens after that,” he said.

“I hope to pass my bill, a clean bill, in the Senate,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to give up any ground right now. It’s too early. We will see. It’s the legislative process and, at the end of the day, we need a bill. But I would prefer the full repeal.”

Johnson said he is uncertain when he will present his bill on the Senate floor. The Senate Education Committee already has approved it.

“It boils down to whether you philosophically believe in public-sector collective bargaining. I don’t,” Johnson said. “I would not support collective bargaining in any regard for public-sector employees because you’re pitting a union against the taxpayer.”

House Democrats complained again that the amendment was sprung on them in the education subcommittee Wednesday. It was approved with little debate on a party-line vote.

“That’s honestly the first time I’d seen it. It took a while to figure that thing out,” said House Democratic leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley. “We did not have the time to prepare.”

“We were agonizing,” said Rep. Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington. “We wanted to know what that amendment did. They were going to vote us down anyway.”

15 Comments on this post:

By: Antisocialite on 3/17/11 at 2:10

So when 70 percent of teachers are satisfied with their union it is not enough to keep it from being decertified, but an even smaller percentage of Tennessee voters get your party into power and it's a 'mandate.'

The hypocrisy would be funny if it wasn't such a serious topic.

By: lclark1113 on 3/17/11 at 2:21

These politicians are forgetting that unions are the thing that broke the back of company stores and company money that tied the workers to the companies for life,they also prevent being fired because of personal conflict. They have brought the poor out of poverty and created the middle class. I forgot these are the people in politics th that think states have the right to over rule the federal government, this battle was lost during the civil war. Unions have been more helpful for the working class and this also includes all the so called groups such as the ama and others. Yes the middle class is the majority,but the power is still in the hands of the rich, no money no votes!! This is where we stand and we will remember, the votes are in the hands of the people. All the people.

By: govskeptic on 3/18/11 at 5:39

Get over it with the Union whinning. The Democratic members
of the Legislature and the TEA and members are complaining just
as much about the House passed bill as they were this original as
passed by the Senate. The voters of this state knew what was to
take place with Education reform before the election. Why back
down on it now when the stuggle is almost complete for this small
portion. The Pro socialites likes the status quo versus real reform!
The House now needs to concur.

By: Wonder Bear on 3/18/11 at 7:54

Private unions did the heavy lifting on behalf of working conditions in our post-19th century Western culture, for which we should most likely -all- be grateful, even if they have outlived their usefulness.

Public unions represent a cancer on the society in the form of representational imbalance, violating the fundamental principle of one-adult-citizen, one-vote. Public union workers get to:

- vote at the polls like everyone else,
- vote through their respective union's lobbying efforts against their fellow citizen's,
- vote through collective bargaining against their fellow citizen's tax monies,
- vote to limit productive and/or creative output through their respective union's enforcement of cookie-cutter mediocrity*,
- vote through union strike actions against their fellow citizen's.

No degree of intelligent or other discourse will effectively address the myopia of those that cannot see past moral and ethical nothingness sufficiently to recognize this basic, societal sickness, so none is being offered here.

The Governor is off to a surprisingly dismal start. For a guy who piloted an enormously successful retail environment where mediocrity is the enemy of progress and success, and was to a significant extent place in his current position on that track record, he seems bent on being underwhelming, so far. Too bad: another dud.

*None of the National Teacher's Association reports from their own website address student performance. They are full to the brim however with graphs and figures centered on pay and vacation.

By: rbull on 3/18/11 at 8:21

It is too bad that the Governor can't fire that damn redneck Speaker Ramsey and send his ass packing back to East Tennessee. I think getting rid of his ass the whole Legislature would be much better off. After all the Governor whipped his butt good during the Governor's race and probably will have to do it again and put this redneck East Tennessean in his place again.

By: SargeE5 on 3/18/11 at 8:22

Bravo Ron Ramsey!!!
Collective bargaining in the public sector is a violation of the nation's and the states' anti-trust laws. There should be no public organization( who's job it is to serve the public, and is paid to do so by the public), to hold the public hostage in a collective bargaining situation. Tax payers have rights too, and it's about time we have some legislators who are willing to be our voice when it comes to bargaining at the table.
If teachers want collective bargaining then let's put it up to a statewide vote. We'll ask the simple question; are you, as a Tennessee taxpayer willing to pay higher taxes so you can fund 100% of Tennessee teachers retirement? I think a vote of the taxpayers would be devastating for the TEA and the NEA.
The Watchman

By: frodo on 3/18/11 at 8:56

When you dems/unionists get upset about bombastic and ignorant-sounding rhetoric from the right, remember that we count rbull on your side, whose rantings drip venom on this page.

I see that Bill Frist is supporting a movement to make teacher tenure more meaningful...that we shouldn't just keep passing all teachers on to tenure like so many illiterate high schoolers passed on to the adult world. But I don't understand why we have teacher tenure at all. How many of us have "tenure" in our jobs? What makes teachers so privileged to have it?

By: pswindle on 3/18/11 at 10:01

Ramsey, the people of TN will soon give you a bold and meaningful one way ticket out of Nashville. I am so tired of you trying to destroy the most important profession in the state. Where would you be or others nuts in the senate be without teachers? The Union has done nothing but good for the teachers and other employees that want to work for the betterment of TN. Go Home and soon, I hope. This has nothing to do about unions, except you want them gone. But, that is not going to happen. All you have done is open our eyes in TN.

By: mg357 on 3/18/11 at 10:51

According to a recent article printed in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the 30% failure in our nations schools, has escalated to over 80%. These figures were substantiated by the secretary of education, Arne Duncan. In view of the escalating cost for public education, this situation is becoming ridiculous to say the least. We, the taxpayers have a right to expect a better return on our funding than is being delivered.

By: JMMoore on 3/18/11 at 12:18

Mark Skoda's comment and comments made by several members of the Wisconsin legislature when it considered similar legislation prove that this is all about politics and NOT education. Legislators have not been elected to promote a political agenda or advance one political group over another. They're elected to make decisions in the best interest of all citizens in the state of Tennessee. It's in the state's best interest to have good teachers and high quality education and this legislation is not the way to get either.

By: Ingleweird on 3/18/11 at 12:49

Afghanistan has the Taliban.
Tennessee has Ron Ramsey.

God help us.

By: shrum2003 on 3/18/11 at 1:07

james c shrum =what we really need is to get rid of republicans like ramsey and all tea party and all others that think we want to take away the rights of our teachers to bargain for their wages and benefits . I am totally against the whole attitude of the republican party all across the nation that we take away from the teachers and ,policeman, and all others that work for the government the right to bargain for their wages and benefits .the GOP want to give this money to big business and the rich in tax breaks . that's what has caused much of the problems we have as a nation any way. 3 percent of the people have 95 percent of the money. the republicans want to make it higher than that . the people in Tennessee are helping them do it . I am ashamed to be a tennessee an see the people vote for a republican like they do . I will never vote for one because they are lower than a snake's bellie. they lie all the time . you no when a republican is lieing his lips are moving.

By: JeffF on 3/18/11 at 1:16

Thank God Nashville voters can only vote on their representatives or we would never get the progress we have finally started seeing this year. My vote may not count in Nashville, but it is reassuring that my side still controls things on capitol hill.

Good luck voting out Ramsey Losers. He is elected by people who think he is right and none of the wailing and gnashing of teeth in an alternative newspaper in a politically unimportant blue speck is going to change that. Cooper will lose before Ramsey.

Bring on congressional reapportionment so we can finally divide this blue speck up into irrelevant pieces. 8-1 sounds like a proper representation of this great state.

By: Gary Lampman on 3/18/11 at 2:38

The State (Neo Facist Communist )Senate and their minions are drunks with new found power. Wee look at me,I can act like a big shot and with the stroke of a Pen. Remove the big Bad Unions?
Our state deserves true leadership and this nonsense has proven that this State is Lacking Mature Leaders!!!!!!!!!
The Push to remove collective Bargaining of teachers shall only enbolden more citizens to join and support Unions. Republicans are driving a deep wedge in this country and have neglected their responsibilites to the State. A exercise in extremism that will be met with extreme measures.

By: leanright on 3/18/11 at 3:04

Wonder what naifeh thinks now that the shoe is on the other foot.