Public employee association members rally to counter anti-union bills

Wednesday, February 23, 2011 at 2:55pm

As fights against anti-union legislation spread from Wisconsin to Indiana and Ohio, Tennessee public employee associations threw a noisy rally of their own Wednesday to denounce Republican attacks on their power in this state.

Several dozen sign-waving, chanting demonstrators descended on Legislative Plaza to assail bills to repeal the collective bargaining rights of Tennessee’s teachers and to end payroll deductions for any union’s political arm.

“What I’m asking our legislators to do is to stop attacking teachers. Put your heads together with us and let’s work on some legislation that actually helps education,” said Cynthia Jones, a fifth-grade teacher and former president of the Murfreesboro Education Association.

Other bills outlaw union political contributions and make it a crime to create “a hazardous or offensive condition” by picketing.

“We finally have a new majority in the Tennessee state legislature, and their first order of business has been to launch an attack on what they see as the biggest threat to our state: Unions that represent Tennessee’s teachers, firefighters, policemen and other hard-working people who live and work here,” Tennessee Citizen Action’s Mary Mancini told the rally, which clogged the Plaza’s main hallway.

“Their plan is not only to end a teacher’s right to negotiate, a right which has created good jobs and safe workplaces for decades, but to also take away the voice of hard-working Tennesseans by barring them from participating in the political process. This is a direct attack on freedom.”

Tennessee Education Association President Gera Summerford, a high school math teacher in Sevier County, said the TEA negotiates for more than wages and benefits.

“We have to bargain for textbooks for every child,” she said. “We have to bargain for material and supplies. We have to bargain for desks and chairs and chalk and markers. All those things are not readily provided because of budget constraints on our school systems. If we didn’t have the opportunity to work together and represent all teachers in the school systems, I’d hate to see what the schools would look like.”

Rep. Glen Casada, R-College Grove, who is sponsoring much of the anti-union legislation, said unions are an outdated burden to businesses and workers alike. He said Republicans are trying “to think outside the box.”

“This is what’s great about America,” he said of the union rally. “You have the right to be wrong.”

“I would contend the unions hurt those who work,” he added. “They’re a level of bureaucracy between myself and my management. I don’t want a union negotiating for me or interfering. I want to interface directly with my management. That’s why so many Americans and Tennesseans aren’t in the union. They realize it’s a hindrance, not a help.”

Just before the rally, the Senate Education Committee — which already has approved ending teachers’ collective bargaining powers — voted 6-3 along party lines to repeal the TEA’s authority to appoint members to the state board governing teacher pensions. Instead, the Republican speakers of the House and Senate would make those appointments.

The committee’s chair — Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville —pointed out that the speakers still would be required under the new law to appoint teachers.

“It just opens it up to more representation of all of Tennessee’s teachers all across the state,” she said.

But TEA lobbyist Jerry Winters called it another political attempt to bust the teachers’ union, a traditional ally of Democrats.

“We’re ready to start talking about education bills and not political bills,” Winters told the committee.

21 Comments on this post:

By: treehugger7 on 2/23/11 at 2:01

Monkey see, monkey do. But I'm afraid the dems here don't have the backbone of those in Wisconsin. Pity...

By: waycool1 on 2/23/11 at 3:08

These people should have no more perks & privledges than any other worker.

By: shinestx on 2/23/11 at 3:56

Aaaah, but that's the scam perpetrated by the left: "public employees are served only by their union"... of course, forget that the government is held up (especially by the left) as the paragon of workers' rights. Now Americans of every stripe see that the public unions are really a money laundering mechanism whereby the government opens the money spigot wider to endow these unions which, in turn, give their annual donations to the Dem-wits, and other leftists who will expand government ad-infinitem.

By: Tatang on 2/23/11 at 4:00

The days when unions are of any benefit to their members are long gone, if they ever really existed at all. At their worst, they are composed of a few parasitic individuals that occupy leadership positions from where they are able to manipulate and coerce their membership for financal and/or political gain. At their very least, they force employers to retain sub standard employees who demand premium wages just for showing up. I am the first to say that everyone deserves, 'an honest day's pay for an honest day's work', however, it is because of unions that major manufacturing across the spectrum in this country has ceased to exist. Now all they have left is 'service workers' that they intend to extort and exploit. Unions, in their past and present form, are a plague and cancer that should be eradicated with extreme prejudice.

By: headyt on 2/23/11 at 5:11

I have to strongly disagree with 2 of the opinions. If it where not for past unions members & their leadership we would not enjoy holidays, vacation,sick time, 40 hour work weeks & the list goes on.I have been in unions for 25 years and no one has forced me to join or do anything that I am not comfortable with.This may have been done 50 years ago, but not today.
A person wrote that the goverment turns on the spigot for the unions to get want they want. I must say that this is not the truth, because I do not know any teacher's who are financial wealthy.They have to have at least 4 years of college.
Now to major manufacturing in this country.Most all of us have seen or heard the talk that company's use. It is just to expensive to contunue to work in this country.When the big 3 were strong company's making record profits. The UAW was also a force in which other auto makers in this country did not want ot deal with, so to keep them out they pay wages as if the employees belong to the UAW. Now when things went south for the big 3 (Mostly because they send so many of our jobs there) and the UAW took major concessions to keep plants open the other companys knew then that they could cut pay for their works.
Yes I am a LIBERAL!

By: JeffF on 2/23/11 at 5:28

“We have to bargain for textbooks for every child,” she said. “We have to bargain for material and supplies. We have to bargain for desks and chairs and chalk and markers. All those things are not readily provided because of budget constraints on our school systems. If we didn’t have the opportunity to work together and represent all teachers in the school systems, I’d hate to see what the schools would look like.”

This seems pretty alarming. That is until you become better informed and find out that there are many states already without union collective bargaining rights for teachers that not only manage to get all this done, but also manage to beat our state in every education measure.

I hate it when people warn us about the chaos that will ensue with change hoping you do not find out it works just fine in a bunch of other places. This is a great example, but it also applies to wine and liquor in grocery stores as well as concealed carry/licensing laws. Opponents to change must think we are stupid.

By: nashtnman on 2/23/11 at 5:30

Unions are no longer needed. They only support the mediocre employee and keep the better ones from excelling. You do not deserve a raise or an increase in any way if you are a “minimum employee”, one that only does as little as possible to succeed. I know many union members and none are happy. Several of them only remain members because of the “bully tactics” if you resign or try to resign from the union. I think they all should be disbanded.

By: spooky24 on 2/23/11 at 5:35

The strategy is force the national unions to use all their resources fighting local battles. The people they are importing to march in Wisconsin must be paid expenses and they can't stay there forever. It's the same here all the Repubs have to do is stretch it out as long as possible and deplete the National Union war chest to pay all these people to protest. After TN comes 9 more states that they will be required to do the same-the Unions have some 160 million to spend but that money is used to lobby as well-and it goes fast.
What I am having trouble understanding(I could care less either way so I can analyze it properly) is the Unions at the National level are experienced at fighting these battles. They know the majority of Americans are against them in their fight but that has never mattered before. So, why are them seeming to dance the tune that is being played for them? They are eventually going to run out of money to pay all these people don't they know that? Every word out of Obama mouth hurts them that much more-they know that as well.
I think the top levels of the National Unions need to rethink a strategy that is simply letting all their money go-in fights they are going to lose. They can't stop Wisconsin nor can they stop the clear majority in Tennessee.
They are not stupid dreamers they know public opinion is solidly against them-why not pull back and let things develop?

pa

By: Tatang on 2/23/11 at 7:00

Here's what Governor Walker's Budget Repair Bill that they're so angry about actually does:

Ask government workers to pay half the cost of their pensions - still less than private employees pay for their pensions
Ask government workers to pay 12% of their own health insurance premiums - the national average for the private sector is over 20%
End collective bargaining for government unions for pensions and benefits. Allow bargaining only for raises that are less than inflation.
End forced union dues, collected by the state. Union dues would become voluntary.
Union members get to vote yearly on whether to keep their union.

HAVE TO LIVE LIKE NON PARASITES? OH MY
END FORCED UNION DUES? OH MY
UNION MEMBERS GET TO VOTE YEARLY ON WHETHER TO KEEP THEIR UNION?
OH MY?

Only someone that is equivalent to what I scrap of my boots after a walk through the cow pasture can justify the protest in Wisconsin. As for here in Tennessee, pretty much the same.

By: titansjoe on 2/23/11 at 7:06

Gosh it seems we have quiet a few brainless Fox News fans around here today. Just a history lesson. Prior to unions most factories worked 10 and 12 hour days regularly. They worked in extremely poor working conditions and were paid very poorly. In many cases at the end on the week when they were paid, they actually owed more than they received. Owners and management mentaly and sexualy abused female workers on a regular basis. If your are a blue collar worker of any kind or your parents or grand parents were and you were able to attend higher education, then you owe it to Union members.
It sickens me at times when people get on their high horse and pat yourself on the back while down grading people that you know nothing about.

I dont consider myself a liberal or a blue blood democrat and certainly not a republican. But to continue my history lesson........Ronald Reagan more than doubled our national deficit. We all remember "read my lips, NO More Taxes" Bush Sr. And we cant forget "Slick Willie" signing another republican bill called NAFTA. For any idiot to defend ole George W. whom started a war against an almost defenseless country called Iraq is beyond me. Check the party lines for defense contractors and the oil business executives and see if they are idiot liberals. My guess is that they are the same republican machine that are truly ruining our country. A group of actors and entertainers on conservative talk shows pass themselves off as news reporters and some of you believe every twisted word. Wise up! If you are within the lower 95% wage earner you are a target! The rich and the folks who truly control everything are in control of this country and many of you are helping them out unknowingly. The rich get richer and the poor (or middle class) get poorer. Ask yourself who stands to gain from a war on Iraq, who gained big time from the tax cuts when deficits are soaring, I bought a muffler with mine, they bought a yaht), when the corporations and weathy make more money will they really provide more jobs for Americans or make even more money abroad, Who gained from NAFTA, and who will gain from union busting? Who gains from our growing imigration problem? Answer: The wealthy. Do you think they will trickle down the money or jobs to the rest of us? Really?

Now here is what is going to happen if Amercans keep believing the Fox News crap, Can you say Third World country?

By: govskeptic on 2/23/11 at 8:55

The Coal Mine strugle days are long gone. We paid the big 3
auto workers twice as much per hour as those buying the
cars and they were given kick the can benefits down the road
that finally can due and the public then has to bail them out.
The same thing has now been going on with Public Sector
Employees for two many yrs and now those are coming due
and there no money to pay that either! TEA has done nothing
to improve quality or improvement in Teachers or Education!
It's time for that to be overwith as well.

By: morpheus120 on 2/23/11 at 9:36

Aside from just being liars or not knowing anything about how unions work or what they've done for all Americans, you anti-worker "conservatives" are on the wrong side of public opinion (as always).

Today's USA Today/Gallup poll showed that Americans strongly oppose laws taking away the collective bargaining power of public employee unions. The poll found 61% would oppose a law in their state similar to such a proposal in Wisconsin, compared with 33% who would favor such a law.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-02-22-poll-public-unions-wisconsin_N.htm

Reality check: While most Americans are not union members, they're smart enough to know that the unions are out to protect the working class and that if they go down, the middle class is finished for good.

By: morpheus120 on 2/23/11 at 9:40

Another fact check from Business Insider magazine:

Only five states do not allow collective bargaining for educators, effectively banning teachers unions (like what is being proposed in Wisconsin). Those states and their SAT/ACT rankings are as follows:

South Carolina – 50th
North Carolina – 49th
Georgia – 48th
Texas – 47th
Virginia – 44th

Meanwhile ground zero of the union battle, Wisconsin, is ranked 2nd in the country.

http://www.businessinsider.com/states-where-teachers-unions-are-illegal-2011-2

By: titansjoe on 2/23/11 at 10:20

Just in case no one noticed, The TEA and teachers of Wisconsin have volountarily taken cuts as most workers in this economy are willing to do. That doesn't seem to be good enough for the Repulicans. Its all about busting the unions and putting greater distance between the haves and have nots. They will not be happy until they have all the money. Rich will be richer and good bye middle class. Wake up before its too late. Apply common sense, there are too many warning signs to ignore.

I am not a union member. But I am a working American who has worked all of my adult life. My bring home pay is less than it was 5 years ago and my benefits have been reduced while inflation is on the rise. I am not complaining because I know times are hard for many and I am fortunate to have a job. I like most workers are willing to take a modest cut. I am also willing to give back the tax cut I was given to help with the national budget. Most people I think are just as willing as I am to help dig our country out of the hole we are in. I don't get the same feeling from the core of the republican party. It seems to be all about power and greed for them. I'm sure when they die they will have arranged for a moving van to follow their hurst.

By: titansjoe on 2/23/11 at 10:20

Just in case no one noticed, The TEA and teachers of Wisconsin have volountarily taken cuts as most workers in this economy are willing to do. That doesn't seem to be good enough for the Repulicans. Its all about busting the unions and putting greater distance between the haves and have nots. They will not be happy until they have all the money. Rich will be richer and good bye middle class. Wake up before its too late. Apply common sense, there are too many warning signs to ignore.

I am not a union member. But I am a working American who has worked all of my adult life. My bring home pay is less than it was 5 years ago and my benefits have been reduced while inflation is on the rise. I am not complaining because I know times are hard for many and I am fortunate to have a job. I like most workers are willing to take a modest cut. I am also willing to give back the tax cut I was given to help with the national budget. Most people I think are just as willing as I am to help dig our country out of the hole we are in. I don't get the same feeling from the core of the republican party. It seems to be all about power and greed for them. I'm sure when they die they will have arranged for a moving van to follow their hurst.

By: treehugger7 on 2/24/11 at 7:55

Thanks for the info, morpheus. I love the fact that you state your point well and can spell and use grammar correctly! That's a rarity here. The info is a wake up call. At least we are not part of the bottom five, which is amazing. We're so used to being at the bottom of everything, except poverty and obesity.

By: madridia on 2/24/11 at 8:22

To waycool1, rather than saying with envy that they have more perks and privileges than the rest, should we not be asking, "Why don't we have those perks and privileges?" And could it not be because private sector unions have been decimated?

To Tatang, your notion than unions destroyed manufacturing is also short-sighted. Even without unions, labor cost would always be cheaper in Mexico, Indonesia, Vietnam and China.

Benefits become hard to pay when the economy contracts, and that happens all on its own, with or without unions. Capitalism has boom and bust cycles. When the economy contracts, like it did after 2008, the working class get hurt worst of all. And that is exactly when the well-heeled point their fingers at them and say, "It's your fault."

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

GUARDIAN------Unions = Crooks & Communist

By: Just Sayin on 2/24/11 at 11:05

Just Sayin, 5 states do not allow their teachers collective bargaining. Here are SAT/ACT rankings in our country.
S.Carolina -50th
N.Carolina -49th
Georgia -48th
Texas - 47th
Virginia -44th
Unions are not the cause of are woes in this country.

By: pswindle on 2/24/11 at 2:00

The GOP in TN and around this country have been doing dirty tricks for years, but now it is coming out in force. Their shell is cracking. They are a bunch of ugly, mean and money hungry bigots.

By: WmCoWatchdog on 2/25/11 at 7:05

Wow, since there is a lot of misinformation being spewed on this comment string, I would like to share the same rebuttal to Morpheus and his ilk as I have elsewhere:

Why don't liberals want to share all the facts? Just read the following articles:

http://www.commonwealthfoundation.org/policyblog/detail/2010-sat-scores-by-state

http://blog.bestandworststates.com/2009/01/29/state-rankings-on-education-spending.aspx

The only reason Wisconsin ranks so high on SAT scores is because only 7% of the students take the test in the first place. Tennessee ranks 12th with a participation rate of 10%, and we spend almost $3000 per student less for comparable results. Regardless, the need for collective bargaining and tenure has passed. We are not getting our money's worth in either state. It's time for compensation to be based on performance and real results.