Excerpts from a City Paper Q&A with former Gov. Phil Bredesen:
On the Legislature repealing collective bargaining rights for teachers since he left office: “I was a little sorry to see the Republican stuff, especially on the collective bargaining, just because it really isn’t an issue in Tennessee. I mean, this is not New Jersey or New York, and the unions really had stepped up, a little reluctantly at times, but they really have been willing to play in a way you can’t even imagine happening in one of the Northeastern states. And so to kind of turn around and slap them down, you know, solving a problem that we really don’t have, I thought was a little bit misguided. “
On what people think about him: “You take a poll about people’s opinions of me, OK, um, contrary to what you might think, I will do much better in the Waffle House in Lewisburg than I will on the Vanderbilt campus. ”
On his relationship with Bill Purcell, who succeeded him as Nashville mayor, compared to Bill Haslam, who succeeded him as governor. He’s responding to a question on whether there talk of clashes between him and Purcell are overblown: No, I think it’s real. I mean I don’t dislike him or have some distaste for him. He had a very different style than I did, and spent what I thought was an inordinate amount of time explaining how he did things so much better than the previous administration, although I think most people looked at my years as a reasonably successful time in the city. That was irritating. But, you know, we get along fine. I see him at things, and we do that, but I sort of got the picture. See, I can talk about things now that I’m not in office. I sort of got the picture when I really worked hard the end of my time as mayor, which I also did as governor, to make sure there was plenty of dry powder financially.
…So I left them with a really healthy balance. Whereas, the usual thing in the past has been the mayor cleans the cupboard out on his way out the door. I left them a really healthy balance. And I think he had not been in office six months before they spent all the balance, and they were doing all these things because they were so much better at running things than the previous administration.
That was probably the beginning of the certain test during that period of time, but I would say Haslam has not — has absolutely not done that. He’s bent over backwards. I mean, I left him in really good shape, and he’s acknowledged that, and he’s continued on a very sensible course.
House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, in a blog post, says the law repealing collective bargaining between teacher associations and school boards “attacked our teachers and public education on three fronts”. First, teachers have been stripped of their right to participate in the political process. Under HB 130, teachers cannot deduct dues from their own paycheck to a professional association if that association is involved in the political process. Besides being extremely vague, this new provision is grossly unfair to teachers when compared to the rights enjoyed by other professions. In no other line of work can the government mandate to the individual what they can or cannot deduct from their own paycheck. This is a massive overstep of the state government and a truly unnecessary mandate.
Second, this legislation robbed teachers of their right to effective professional association. In almost every line of work, employees are encouraged to join a recognized professional association to advocate for their issues both in the workplace and in the government. I, for instance, belong to the Tennessee Bankers Association who represent my interests as a banker in Nashville. Every profession in Tennessee from farmers to home builders to lawyers to truck drivers to doctors has a united professional association looking out for their interest–except teachers. Under this new law, teachers no longer have a united professional association. Rather they have been broken up into a multitude of smaller associations to dilute their collective voice.
Finally, Lt. Governor Ramsey and his friends have taken from our teachers the right to negotiate on behalf of our children. The Lt. Governor and his allies want you to believe that professional negotiations are just about benefits to teachers, but this simply isn’t true. Our teachers negotiate for things students need to be successful. They have negotiated for smaller classroom sizes, usable chalkboards, new text books, increased security measures and access to classrooms for student extracurricular activities. Alternative schools are a product of professional negotiations in Sullivan County, while teachers in Hancock County had to use professional negotiations to get basic janitorial services to keep students safe from flu and lice outbreaks. Now, under HB 130, teachers can’t negotiate for these basic classroom necessities.
By Erik Schelzig,Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An Associated Press analysis of student testing data shows Tennessee school systems without teachers’ collective bargaining rights performed slightly better than those with negotiated contracts, but posted weaker gains.
Thirty-eight of the state’s 135 local school districts did not engage in collective bargaining with their teachers before a new law eliminated those rights this year, according to the Tennessee Education Association.
Those districts averaged a higher percentage of students earning proficient or advanced scores in the four categories tested. The largest difference was in math, where non-bargaining districts averaged 3.5 percentage points higher than the rest of the districts, while social science scores were just a half percentage point apart.
But the districts that allowed collective bargaining — which included the state’s four largest cities — averaged larger gains in all four categories compared with last year’s scores.
The mostly Republican supporters of a new law that replaced collective bargaining rights with a concept called “collaborative conferencing” argued that the move put a priority on teacher performance over workplace issues.
But Democrats and the state’s largest teachers’ union characterized the legislation as a politically motivated attack.
The Dickson County Education Association – the local teachers’ union – is suing the Dickson County Board of Education over a recent negotiation dispute, reports The Tennessean. The lawsuit, filed in Dickson County Chancery Court, also claims that a new anti-union law is unconstitutional. According to DCEA chief negotiator Patricia Hudson, the two sides were discussing salary and fringe benefits when the school board halted negotiations, citing the state legislature’s passing of the Professional Educators Collaborating Conferencing Act (PECCA) in May.
Under the new law, collective bargaining rights of unions will be replaced by “collaborative conferencing,” when current teacher union contracts expire.
DCEA’s contract with the school board is valid through 2013 and includes a section about re-negotiating certain terms, including salary talks.
On May 26, the school board passed a budget without completing salary negotiations with the union, Hudson said.
The lawsuit claims that the board “revealed its bad faith intent to disregard its contractual obligations” by adopting the budget before negotiations were finished.
…Also, the Board of Education used PECCA as a reason to cease bargaining before the law actually went into effect on June 1, according to Hudson.
….In addition to asking for an injunction ordering the Board of Education to return to “good faith negotiations” and submitting budget amendments to the county commission, the lawsuit also takes aim at PECCA.
The lawsuit asks that “following a trial on the merits, the Court declare PECCA to be unconstitutional in violation of Article I, Section 20…of the Tennessee Constitution.”
Article I, Section 20 of the state constitution states “that no retrospective law, or law impairing the obligations of contracts, shall be made.”
Four of the five House Republicans who voted against this year’s bill to end teacher collective bargaining — along with independent former Republican Kent Williams — were from Northeast Tennessee.
So is Robert Houk, who devotes his Sunday column to the subject. He covers both those who voted against the prevailing Republican wind and those who went with it. Seems Houk’s sympathies lie with the former. Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, voted with the majority, telling his colleagues he considered himself to be a “statesman,” not a politician. Curiously, Hill showed himself to be neither a statesman nor a smart politician in voting to water down collective bargaining. Instead, he proved himself to be — above all – a partisan.
The same was true for Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, who despite expressing much angst over the plight of teachers, voted at crunch time to substantially weaken their collective voices at contact time.
In truth, no one really knows what the so-called collective conferencing act will mean to education in Tennessee. One TEA official told me last week it would take time to dissect the legislation, which she described as “vague” and “confusing.” The bill allows other organizations to take a seat at the bargaining table. (Just who these other organizations might be is not specified in the bill, nor does the legislation clearly spell out what can no longer be written into final agreements.)
The legislation does, however, change the rules that have guided contract negotiations between teachers and school boards since 1978. Williams said one of the reasons he voted against the legislation was that no one could explain to him why it is needed. “I asked how ending collective bargaining would help education, and nobody could answer my question,” Williams said.
What it will do, Williams said last week, is further demoralize teachers. Ford agreed. “That’s why I got up on the floor (of the House) and spoke against the bill,” Ford said. “It’s hard for me to look a teacher in the eye knowing they haven’t gotten a raise in three years.”
The attack on collective bargaining has nothing to do with bettering education in Tennessee. It’s simply a display of raw, naked power on the part of GOP leaders who are ticked off at the TEA.
(Note: Updates & expands earlier post.)
Gov. Bill Haslam today signed into law legislation to change collective bargaining between teacher unions and school boards as well as a bill legalizing direct corporate contributions to Tennessee political campaigns, a spokesman says.
Both HB130, the collective bargaining bill, and the corporate contributions bill, SB1915, were written to become effective as soon as the governor affixed his signature.
The collective bargaining bill, in its final version, abolishes collective bargaining on some subjects but allows “collaborative conferencing” to continue on other subjects, including basic pay, but not merit or differential pay.
The campaign finance bill not only allows corporations to make direct donations to candidates for the first time in Tennessee, but also increases the size of donations that can be made under state law by about 40 percent. The bill also calls for increases in maximum contribution in the future as the consumer price index rises.
Also on the list of bills signed:
-SB16, the bill mandating a photo identification for voting.
-HB2156, authorizes 20 weeks of extended unemployment benefits for jobless Tennesseans.
-HB300, designed to make prosecution of “cyberbullying” easier.
-SB714, clears the way for private companies to operate “virtual schools” in Tennessee.
-HB386, makes it optional for each county to decide whether to have paper-trail ballots (as opposed to the mandate in original ‘Voter Confidence Act.’
-HB1114, grants investigation authority to state election coordinator.
-SB905, declares all non-teaching employees of school systems can be fired at will.
-HB693, abolishes pre-trial diversion for first-time criminal defendants
-HB1632, deals with capacity of communities to accept regugees from other countries
The full list of bills signed, as distributed today by the governor’s office, is available below.
UPDATE: The Senate promptly adopted the report, 19-12. The House is to take the matter up later tonight.)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Legislative Republicans are proposing to replace teachers’ collective bargaining rights with a concept they call “collaborative conferencing.”
The proposal is the result of an effort to reconcile competing House and Senate versions of a bill (SB113) seeking to dial back union negations.
Republican Rep. Harry Brooks of Knoxville said the new version of the bill is aimed at easing the combative atmosphere of negotiations between teachers’ unions and school boards.
The measure would create conferences to craft memorandums of understanding on issues like salaries, grievances, benefits and working conditions. But it would shield other areas like differentiated pay or evaluations from discussions.
The bill would also eliminate payroll deductions that can be used for political contributions.
Note: The overhaul was hammered out today by a joint House-Senate conference committee — one suspects they probably thought about the provisions in advance — then brought to the floors of both chambers for consideration. The Conference Committee report is available HERE.
House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh was on hand in 1978 when the Legislature approved a law authorizing collective bargaining between teachers and school boards and he’s around now that there’s a move afoot to repeal that law.
TNReport has some commentary from Naifeh — who opposed collective bargaining then, but supports it now
Excerpts: The Act passed when Naifeh was in his fourth year as a state representative. The Senate passed it on a 20-10 vote. The House passed it 60-38. It was signed on March 10, 1978 by Democratic Gov. Ray Blanton, who, according to a Tennessean article written the next day, “made a surprise visit” to a Tennessee Education Association convention in Nashville so that teachers could witness him officially make it law.
…Naifeh and then-state Rep. John Tanner were “viciously opposed” to giving unions the power to force collective bargaining with local school districts, said Rep. Lois DeBerry, D-Memphis, who was present at the debate and voted in favor of the 1978 Act. Tanner served 22 years as a United States Congressman from Tennessee’s 8th Congressional District after 12 years in the state House of Representatives.
“They tried every rule, everything in the book to stop it,” DeBerry said of Naifeh and Tanner.
Tanner didn’t respond to requests for comment for this article.
In audio recordings of House floor debate over the 1978 Act, Naifeh can be heard attempting to add amendments to the bill that were derided by supporters of collective bargaining as delaying tactics or attempts to kill the union-friendly legislation.
Naifeh in 1978 was a supporter of local control, and he argued that the state was imposing its will on the districts by forcing them to recognize and exclusively negotiate with a teachers union.
“All I’m asking is that you give the people of your district the opportunity to decide whether or not they want to have professional negotiations,” Naifeh at one point pleaded with his House colleagues.
But between the fiery debates then and now, Naifeh has done a 180-degree change of course.
“I made a mistake, and I have admitted that many times,” Naifeh told TNReport earlier this legislative session. “At the time, it just didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t think it was the way to go.”
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.
The House continued what might be viewed as a game of committee ping-pong today with HB130, the bill dealing with collective bargaining between school boards and teacher unions.
The House Finance Committee last week tried to amend the bill to reflect, basically, the latest Senate version. But the panel wound up bouncing the bill back to the Education Committee, which had approved another version earlier.
Today, the Education Committee, on an 11-6 vote, bounced the bill back to the Finance Committee again — after refusing to adopt the amendment that had bounced it back last week.
Bottom line: the Senate and House versions of the bill are significantly different. And the bouncing may not be over yet.