E2010 Wired

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Tennessee Gets Closer to Eliminating Collective Bargaining Laws

While the rest of the country focused on the threat of a government shutdown, a small group attended a forum on collective bargaining laws in Tennessee led by Steve Thompson, former lead negotiator for the Sullivan Education Association. The forum was hosted by the Upper East Tennessee Central Labor Council of the AFL-CIO.

Clearly, the goal of the forum was to educate folks about collective bargaining practices and not focus on the politics of union busting. Ironically, Tennessee has the weakest collective bargaining laws in the country. Despite that fact, “State lawmakers are … wrestling with a bill that … would eliminate teachers’ ability to negotiate salaries and working conditions with local school boards.”

But politics is what this is all about. Thompson has been working directly with Tennessee’s Lt. Gov. Ramsey on a bill that would eliminate much of union members collective bargaining rights. He stated that the  Lt. Governor’s position on the bill “is more about political payback for the Tennessee Education Association, which in recent years has given more money to the election campaigns of Democrats.”

“He hasn’t even asked us how negotiations work and what we gain from it…” Thompson said of Ramsey. “There are many years we didn’t ask for a raise. … Sullivan County bargains, but Kingsport and Bristol do not. … All the teachers in Kingsport and Bristol are happy we bargain. When our situation improves, their situation improves. … We don’t get paid a fortune, but it’s competitive.”

Kingsport labor attorney Bruce Shine argued that Tennessee has one of the weakest collective bargaining laws in the United States.

“In this (collective bargaining) debate, the only voice for the student is the teacher…” said Shine, who is also a Times-News columnist. “The question is not salary. The question is what type of education will the child receive? … Collective bargaining covers a whole group of issues that otherwise would never come before the school board.”

Labor group holds forum on collective bargaining – Kingsport Times-News Online.

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