Harwell Casts Vote to Save Collective Bargaining Bill From Defeat

House Speaker Beth Harwell saved a bill to prohibit collective bargaining between teachers unions and school boards from defeat Wednesday, but left very much alive a split in Republican ranks over the controversial issue.
Three Republicans joined all Democrats in voting against the bill, HB130, in the House Finance Committee and another abstained. That left a 12-12 tie vote – with ties amounting to defeat under legislative rules. Harwell, who has a right to vote on any committee, stepped in to cast the deciding vote so the measure passed 13-12.
The vote was the latest in a series of convoluted maneuvers that has left the House and Senate, both with large Republican majorities, taking different courses on the legislation.
The Senate version, passed 18-14 last week with just one Republican senator voting no, calls for an outright ban on teacher collective bargaining. The House Finance Committee last week rejected the Senate proposal.
The House version approved in the committee Wednesday prohibits collective bargaining on some subjects – notably including wages – but allows it to continue on other matters. Ninety-two of Tennessee’s 136 school districts now have collective bargaining.
Wednesday’s vote was the second time Harwell stepped in to break a tie and keep the legislation alive.


Debate in the committee Wednesday included Democrats voicing fears that trickery was afoot and the bill’s sponsor, House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart of Hendersonville, would swap the House version for the more sweeping Senate version when the bill reaches the House floor – possibly next week.
“I didn’t see a turnip truck around here and I didn’t just fall off one,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh of ripley. “We’re going to pass the Senate bill.”
Maggart refused to commit to yanking the bill from the floor if the Senate version is substituted, even though asked to make such a promise by Rep. Mike Harrison, R-Rogersville.
Harrison was one of the three Republicans voting no on the bill. The others were Reps. Scotty Campbell, R-Mountain City, Dennis “Coach” Roach of Rutledge. Rep. Jim Coley, R-Bartlett, abstained.
Coley said later that he is a member of Shelby County Education Association and its parent organization, the Tennessee Education Association (TEA), which is bitterly opposed to the bill. “In my heart,” Coley said, he wanted to vote no, but felt it appropriate to abstain.
After the vote, Harwell said she would support the House version on the floor, but would also be willing to support the Senate version. The speaker said she had promised some Republicans to assure that the bill gets a floor vote, though it is “not a priority” to her personally.
Harwell predicted the measure will ultimately wind up in a House-Senate conference committee, where members of the two chambers will try to reach a compromise.
TEA lobbyist Jerry Winters told the committee members that the bill has outraged and united teachers statewide.
“I just hope not a single one of you goes home and tries to convince teachers in your district that you’ve done something for education,” he said “That’s not going to fly with them. It’s not going to fly with the general public. They’re not stupid.”
Here’s a House Democratic Caucus release on the issue.
(Nashville) – A House panel passed an anti-teacher bill Wednesday that continues an effort to strip teachers of their ability to effectively negotiate for better classrooms for students and better working conditions for their profession.
“This bill is only a start in what we believe will be an agreement with the state Senate to destroy all rights to negotiate from more than 52,000 Tennessee teachers,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner (D-Old Hickory). “This is an attack on Tennessee teachers; make no mistake.”
The anti-teacher bill, which is expected to pass the Republican-controlled Senate in another form, will decrease the rights of teachers to effectively negotiate a contract covering their salary, benefits, working conditions, school safety, class size, planning time, time to teach, length of the school day, scheduling and other priorities.
“This is a political game; the Republican majority is calling it a ‘reform,'” Turner said. “They simply don’t want public education to exist in this state at all.
“We’re asking all citizens, especially our teachers, their families and their friends to call the state legislature and ask their House and Senate members to vote against this bill.”
The bill will now head for a full House vote and is expected to be re-shaped into the Senate version, which will strip the rights of teachers to better their careers and the learning environment for Tennessee students.

4 thoughts on “Harwell Casts Vote to Save Collective Bargaining Bill From Defeat

  1. Sally Absher

    I don’t know about teachers as a whole, but my husband is a teacher, and he is thrilled with the bill to eliminate collective bargaining. He is not, and never will, be a member of the teachers union. Maybe it was because he came into teaching in mid-life, from a successful career as an oil and gas exploration geologist and environmental consulting geologist, but he is perfectly capable of negotiating his own contract and does not need a bunch of union thugs to tell him how to do his job, and to squander his hard earned money on their liberal politics.
    I also disagree that the public is opposed to this measure. Anyone who has been paying attention during the past few months has seen the tactics of the unions protesting in Wisconsin, Ohio,and other states. They have seen the busloads of union members descending on the capital buildings to protest – it is not the teachers out there yelling and shouting like a bunch of idiots, it is their hired goons. We the public are disgusted. There is no reason, in this day of over-abundant legislation and regulation, why any profession needs a union to “represent” them against their employer! It is frankly time to abolish all unions. They are of no benefit to anyone but the union leaders. When will the union members wake up? When will our legislators enact right-to-work legislation in all 50 states? Look at what is happening to Boeing! How can a union sue a private company trying to open a new manufacturing plant in… heaven forbid… a right to work state? While they have doubled the work force in the original union state, and plan to hire 1000 workers in the new location? Where is the justice in that?
    In today’s economy, there is no room for unions. Let businesses, and professionals, compete in the free and open marketplace. Give them the liberty to be the best they can be – unencumbered by the bounds of union membership. I think it is absolutely reprehensible that in the Tennessee legislature, with 64 of 99 house members hailing from the GOP, we are struggling to pass this simple, common sense legislation. That our legislators are more worried about their own re-election bids than in doing the right thing to improve education and free the professional educators to unleash their own creative energy in our state. Many of these same legislators send their children to private schools – where, guess what? There is no collective bargaining! Wow! What a concept! Are these children hurt because their teachers don’t have a union to collectively bargain for them? Hardly!
    This should not even be being debated. It has proven that while Tennessee may indeed be a “red” state, it is far from a “conservative” state. The people are watching. The people have lost their patience with weak, spineless legislators. The sleeping giant continues to awaken!

  2. Mike Porter

    Any claim that this bill is an injustice is an affront to tax payers that are forced to “gift” greater amounts of their own meager and precious resources to unions. The actual injustice occurs against the respectful, polite and peaceful majority of tax-paying Tennessee voters who were raised to believe, respect and revere those in authority. You owe it to them to pass this bill and put an end to unions taking advantage of these citizens.
    The following quote was found written on the inside cover of my father’s bible after his death,”The truth will only be achieved when self-interests are removed.” This bill brings teachers and school boards closer to the truth than ever before and it accomplishes this by removing the self-interests of unions. Discussions between school administrators and teachers regarding important problems and issues will only benefit the students when these talks address truthful facts. And these truthful facts will never be considered when they are held for ransom by self-interested unions.
    Passage of this bill will bring rise to direct communications between teachers and school boards that are undiminished by an adversarial environment. County school board members typically know well those teachers in their county as well as their families. The inclusion of a self-interested union breaks this bond and only fosters distrust.
    Legislators often forget that they are responsible to the voters rather than the unions. On that rainy Saturday when supporters of the bill gathered at the capitol, they did so at their own expense including driving their own vehicles. Also remember that supporters of this bill typically must take off from work to attend a House committee session. There is no union that negotiates personal time for them to use in support of their self-interests.

  3. Sang Ward

    I’m tired of my property Taxes going up every year to support these unions. The Teachers need to do their jobs teaching, not pursuing their own agendas period.

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