Teachers Lose First Round On Collective Bargaining

Legislation to yank collective bargaining power from the state’s largest teachers’ organization moved forward Wednesday. The measure aims to end the union’s role in contract negotiations with local school boards.

The Tennessee Education Association would be reduced to just another group making suggestions under the bill brought by Franklin Republican Jack Johnson.

Senator Johnson says the bill takes away the teacher union’s clout.

“If it passes, the 92 school districts that currently have mandatory collective bargaining will no longer be compelled to have mandatory collective bargaining with one union.”

Johnson says the bill to limit the power of the union doesn’t silence anybody. TEA could still come to their local school board like other citizens.

TEA lobbyist Jerry Winters says school boards aren’t likely to listen.

“Clearly it does away with mandatory negotiations. And school boards are not going to receive input with open arms.”

Teachers belonging to the union jammed the legislature’s halls today to try to slow the bill down – with no success.

The bill, which moved forward on a party-line vote, is now cleared to go to the Senate floor. But in the House it hasn’t been heard by the Education Committee yet.

Previous attempts to dismantle the TEA’s bargaining power have always been stopped in the state House of Representatives. But Republican leaders say the bill will pass easily now, in a House with a Republican majority.

Johnson’s bill is SB 0113 Johnson/HB 0130 Maggart, was approved along party lines by the Senate Education Committee, six Republicans to three Democrats.

Legislative staff analyzed the effect of the bill in this fiscal note.

It reckons that local school boards would save $435,000 by being able to drop court cases now underway.

Collective bargaining agreements already in effect would continue until the end of the agreement date, the Fiscal Review Committee staff says. But after those expire, school boards would be able to cut back on various benefits, like insurance coverage, and save more than $16 million.

Senator Johnson says the proposed law would allow other teacher-professional groups and even individual teachers to go around an existing union. But no one would be able to “negotiate” with the school board.

“Or if a school teacher chooses to, they might not want to be a member of any organization. Where, right now, to have any input into the process, they have to be a member of the TEA, And whatever the TEA negotiates with the school district, that teacher is bound to. And that’s wrong.”

Any teacher can go talk to a school board members… but their negotiations, their contract is determined through these negotiations between the union and the school board.

Winters, a long-time representative for state teachers group, says the measure is a mistake.

“The bill sets relationships back with teachers about 35 years. It totally repeals the 1978 negotiations act, which in effect takes teacher input out of the process of policy making. It is something that is a very bad step. It is not education reform. And it’s something we’re going to continue to fight before this legislature considers it for final passage.”

Republican strategists consider the TEA a Democratic support group – and historically the group’s campaign contributions tend to bear that out.

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