Harwell wants bill to repeal teachers' union collective bargaining rights modified

Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 1:45pm

State House Speaker Beth Harwell suggested Tuesday she wants to stop short of an outright repeal of the collective bargaining rights of the teachers’ union, placing herself at odds with the Tennessee Tea Party.

The Tea Party sent an “emergency alert” urging its supporters to contact lawmakers who are waffling on the legislation. “We need to ‘wear them out’ now!” the alert said. At the top of the list was Harwell.

But the Nashville Republican told the Tennessee chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business that she favors modifying the bill to forbid collective bargaining only for certain contract issues. Harwell said, for instance, she’s against allowing union negotiations over merit pay, leaving open the possibility that she would allow it for base pay and other benefits.

“I think there will be a few changes made to the bill. Ultimately, I think it will pass,” Harwell said.

Gov. Bill Haslam, who also spoke to the business group, said afterward that he too expects changes in the bill.

“That’s a good example of a piece of legislation that’s still developing,” the governor said. “We’re not at the end of the road on that, and I think there will be a few more twists and turns before we get there.”

Haslam has been criticized for refusing to take a position on the bill. He said he might do so before the legislature votes on it.

“It all depends on how that plays out but I think I easily could, yes,” he said.

The bill has passed the Senate Education Committee. But at Haslam’s request, the legislature is waiting to take further action until the governor’s education reform measures are considered. Haslam wants to change the law to make it harder for teachers to receive and to keep tenure. That bill comes up Wednesday in a Senate committee.

“This is not at all about pointing fingers at teachers,” Haslam said.

“If it is, it’s the wrong discussion.”

Obviously sensitive to the accusation that Republicans are targeting the rights of teachers, Harwell also emphasized that point.

“This is not an attempt to hurt a teacher,” she said. “This is an attempt to help the student learn in the classroom.”

Tennessee Education Association lobbyist Jerry Winters said he welcomed Harwell’s remarks about the collective bargaining bill.

“There’s obviously room for negotiations. We’re certainly open to talks,” he said. “Teachers are feeling very put-upon right now. In many cases, they are feeling almost betrayed by the legislature.”

7 Comments on this post:

By: gdiafante on 3/1/11 at 3:23

The Tea Baggers don't give a damn about education unless it's their distorted version.

Circling the drain, folks.

By: lamons on 3/1/11 at 5:11

While I agree that there should probably be some changes to the collective bargaining agreement with teachers, and other public workers, the all out assault on unions by the Tea Party extremists shows how little respect they have for the average worker. None of these public servants, with a few exceptions, are getting rich off the state, city or federal government. The agreements do allow for principals and administrators to deal with poor performering teachers, it is just not easy and it should not be. Without the union, who knows who and politics would re-enter the decisions, not qualifications, for hiring and firing and assignments. As always, there is a middle ground, but not for the Tea Party.

By: djarrell on 3/2/11 at 7:34

I have these really good friends at church and their daughter just graduated college and needs a teaching job. I think I'll give this girl a job. Now let's see - who can I let go to make room for her . . . . .?

By: govskeptic on 3/2/11 at 7:54

What good does it do to change the leadership in our
legislature if all the poor choices made in the past are
allowed to remain in place. Mrs. Harwell, is faced with
the choice of supporting the majority of her party versus
the district wishes. Self preservation (re-election) and the
"I'm OK-Your OK" attitude, along with pleasing everyone
creates a problem with the position she holds!

By: HokeyPokey on 3/2/11 at 8:34

If you look at the Tea Party for what it really is, a front group for "Conservative" "Christians," you can see what this is all about.

Anybody want a franchise for the next "Little Soldiers of Jesus and Him crucified" private school?

By: treehugger7 on 3/2/11 at 8:54

At least Ms. Harwell has a brain and isn't a rabid conservative. Imagine if we had to listen to Ran Ramsey as speaker! Thank goodness she won! She's walking a tightrope and doing pretty well so far. Apparently she is pissing off everyone, which I take as a positive.

By: pswindle on 3/2/11 at 11:10

Leave the teachers alone. They have done nothing but educate your children. The GOP has barely taken over and look what a mess we are already in. Wake up TN and take your state back from the GOP and Tea Baggers sorry Party. The Christian Right and their churches need their tax-exempt taken away. That would separate state and church real fast.