Tuesday, May 24, 2011

GOP targets teacher union in Tennessee for destruction

The seed that was sown with huge Republican victories in the Tennessee legislature last November has produced its fruit: passage of a bill to end 33 years of collective bargaining by school teachers.

Both the state Senate and House have passed versions of legislation to repeal the 1978 Education Professional Negotiations Act and replace it with a complex new process worked out in secret by Republicans with no Democratic input and which essentially ends most union-related rights for the 52,000-member Tennessee Education Association.

The new act, called the Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act, is a contradiction in terms, both in its birth and in its projected implementation. One key provision is to outlaw payroll deductions that might be used by employee associations for political purposes.

That provision is an obvious effort to cut off a traditional source of funding for Democratic candidates.

Under the new act, school boards become the ultimate authority in most decisions regarding teachers. The legislation is expected to get the nod of the state's Republican governor, Bill Haslam, and become the law of the land.

It's another advance in the march of Republican legislators across the country--from Wisconsin to Tennessee--to strip public employees of their right to be part of a union.

It hasn't been unusual for union members in past elections to vote for Republican candidates despite the long history of animosity toward unions within the GOP. That animosity is more clearly visible today than it has been in a long time, and let's hope union members see it just as clearly.

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