Senate votes to strip collective bargaining rights from teachers

Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 8:32am

The state Senate voted Monday night to strip public school teachers of their collective bargaining powers — the most contentious item on the Republican agenda to undermine the teachers’ union.

The bill’s supporters, which include the state’s association of school boards, insisted it will foster more collaboration between teachers and administrators. In place of collective bargaining, the bill requires school boards across the state to develop employment manuals on pay, benefits and working conditions for teachers after holding public hearings and giving teachers and the public time to comment.

“This bill, as amended, is all about empowering school boards,” Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Brentwood, said before the Senate voted 18-14 for his bill. “We have tens of thousands of teachers in this state who are not a member of the teachers’ union. They choose not to join that union. In doing so, they lose their voice. No teacher should be prohibited from voicing their opinion. I believe the public policy of the state should be that we listen to all teachers, not just members of the teachers’ union.”

The Tennessee Education Association says Republicans are retaliating because the TEA refused their demands to give more campaign contributions to GOP candidates in last year's elections. Hundreds of teachers marched to the Capitol for a protest rally earlier in the session.

Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, bemoaned what he called the end of bipartisanship on education that helped the state win $501 million in President Obama’s Race to the Top competition last year.

“Last year, we had Race to the Top,” Berke said. “This year, we have dive to the bottom.”

He said the Republican bill “divides and polarizes our community.”

“If we are to achieve a better future for our children, we must hire, train and keep our best teachers. Demoralizing them by targeting them with political gestures serves the opposite purpose,” Berke said. 

Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, noted, "This act is titled the Advancement of Student Achievement Act." He said, "It might better be called the Advancement of Teacher Oppression Act."

"Don't seek to muzzle our teachers and stifle them," Herron told the Senate. 

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.

The companion bill in the House has been amended to allow collective bargaining for pay and benefits but not for other matters, such as merit pay. The Senate proposal was amended to require the policy manuals as a way to win House support for an outright repeal of collective bargaining. House Speaker Beth Harwell has said representatives will go along with the Senate bill.

10 Comments on this post:

By: Blip on 5/3/11 at 7:42

I hope all the teachers quit.

By: gdiafante on 5/3/11 at 8:01

"I am glad to know that there is a system of labor where the laborer can strike if he wants to! I would to God that such a system prevailed all over the world."

-- Abraham Lincoln, 1860

By: BenDover on 5/3/11 at 8:01

Well... let's see... Civil Service protections AND Tenure. Having a thug union also for the protection of the slacker teachers at the expense of the reputation of the good teachers and the reputation of the profession as a whole is a bit much for the taxpayers to bear.

By: pswindle on 5/3/11 at 8:37

I hope the teachers come out in force to let the Governor know that this bill will hurt more than it helps. He has the right to veto the bill, and I hope that he will not let Ramsey control what the he wants and what he will sign. It was my understanding that the Gov. would not do away with collective bargaining until Ramsey decided he would go down the same path as WI Governor. Gov. Haslam, grow a backbone and stand up to the Tea Party likes of Ramsey, Johnson and Maggart. Our only hope is a new election will come and maybe by then TN will wake up to what the Legislative is doing to our state. Who would want to go into teaching? A shortage of teachers will come in force because of the treatment that has been handed to the backbone of the learning process. Johnson, Ramsey and Maggart need to go back to Sunday School and learn not to tell lies.

By: trtay2004 on 5/3/11 at 9:46

God please help our teachers, most of whom have a true calling to do the right thing in this world instead of trying to attain worldly wealth. Please give them the voice they need to be heard. Please open the eyes of our governor and other politicians of the harm they are doing to the lowest paid and most critical state employees to our children.

By: JeffF on 5/3/11 at 9:51

What a wonderful turn of events. Someone finally looked behind the curtains and discovered that the teachers union represents far fewer teachers than they let on.

Time to end the TEA's special exception to public employee labor laws in Tennessee. Now they are equal to the other professionals working for the governments. Wonder why there is not a shortage of people willing to take the jobs that the unions was not protecting? Police and fire departments in many cities usually have dozens or even hundreds of applicants for each open position.

Doom and gloom, doom and gloom, doom and gloom. Now teachers are just like every other working slob in Tennessee. Doom and gloom.

By: pswindle on 5/3/11 at 3:42

The bullies of Capitol Hill have shown what they really are made of. Some cannot handle power. This group is uneducated to what teachers and unions really do. I bet most of you read because of a teacher. I bet most of you have a good job because of a teacher. Everything that you have accomplished is because of a teacher. You sould be ashamed.

By: Wompcat on 5/3/11 at 3:47

Goodbye teachers union, you`ll be missed, NOT.

By: JeffF on 5/3/11 at 7:12

It is amazing we as a country were able to survive until teachers were granted special labor rights in 1978.

Seriously, it is probably time for some of you to detach teachers from the teachers union. It is possible to have teachers without a union. Happening all over the place.

By: govskeptic on 5/4/11 at 7:22

What force has delayed the House from passing this Senate version that they
completed on Monday? Why give the TEA Director along with their fellow
Firefighters union and SEIU another few weeks to disparage the House
members on this issue? The voters of this state, less a few middle Tenn
press members, support this bill!