A bill to strip bargaining rights from the state’s teacher union is on the state House of Representatives agenda Monday night, but it’s not the only bill on the agenda that worries public union members.
Some legislators say the attempt to take away collective bargaining from the Tennessee Education Association is a political fight, not necessarily part of a broad assault against unions in general.
House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh is a banker, and he admits he’s not particularly a “union man.” He sees the collective bargaining bill as political payback.
Fitzhugh: “I think it’s just teachers. It’s teachers and who they tend to support. And they tend to support…”
Mike Turner: “Democrats.”
That was Mike Turner, the Democratic caucus chair, doing the prompting.
He is a union man, the firefighters union. And he’s worried that a bill sponsored by freshman Republican Andy Holt would make it easier to file criminal charges against union activists.
“I used to be an organizer, and if I went to organize somebody, all somebody would have to say is that ‘I was intimidated by his presence,’ which we know somebody -whether I did anything or not – it would potentially make me a Class B felon.”
Turner says most union activities are regulated by the federal government, but state governments have much more power over public unions. In Memphis and Nashville, that’s police, fire and service workers.
The bill that “prohibits certain union and employee organization activities” is up for a vote in both chambers of the state legislature Monday night – along with collective bargaining.
The collective bargaining bill on the House floor tonight is HB 130 Maggart/SB 113 Johnson.
The bill is amended in the Senate to spell out several potential offenses.
The House has the same amendment, plus three more making section-by-section changes. The differences in the House and Senate versions make it unlikely the bill would pass in both houses on the same day. The two houses would have to agree on the same language in order to pass a bill.