Activists Lead Assault on Tennessee Education Association

Conservative groups push senators to 'stand firm against' teachers union

By Richard Locker

Memphis Commercial Appeal | February 20, 2011

NASHVILLE -- Conservative groups are helping push the Republican legislative efforts to outlaw collective bargaining by Tennessee teachers and other bills to curb the influence of the Tennessee Education Association.

Although their numbers were dwarfed by the 200 to 300 teachers opposing the anti-bargaining bill at a hearing Wednesday, tea party activists also attended wearing stickers in support of the bill, along with leaders of Eagle Forum of Tennessee, Family Action Council of Tennessee and other groups.

In the hours leading up to the Senate Education Committee vote on SB 113, Tennessee Tea Party urged members to pressure senators "to stand firm against the teachers unions." ...

Family Action Council founder and former GOP state senator David Fowler notified his members about the bill, criticizing "all the liberal social policies that the TEA and its national ally, the National Education Association, stand for," he wrote. ... The bills' sponsors denied they are retribution for TEA's larger political contributions to Democrats than Republicans, but Fowler said in his Web posting: "Now with Republicans firmly in control, the TEA is on the brink of 'payback'." CONTINUED

Rally targets tenure, teacher union bills

Activists warn of return to favoritism, nepotism

FRANKLIN — About 200 people turned out Wednesday to hear speeches and sign petitions against legislation that would strip collective bargaining rights from educators and make teacher tenure harder to get and easier to revoke.

Filling a meeting room at the hotel to near capacity, leaders of the Tennessee Education Association, or TEA, took turns at the podium fueling opposition to legislation that would strip the collective bargaining rights of associations in addition to other proposed laws aimed at the groups.

"Some of our opponents have deep pockets," said Gera Summerford, TEA president. "Teachers have never been known for our financial elevation. But we will make democracy work in our favor … we must continue to be vocal and visible."

At the epicenter of the debate is a bill that would reverse a 1978 law that gave teachers the right to bargain collectively for salaries through unions. A Senate Education Committee recently voted along party lines to advance the bill that would end a requirement that local school districts negotiate contracts with collective bargaining units organized by teachers, a factor the TEA staunchly opposes.

The TEA, with its local affiliations, represents educators in 92 school districts — about 52,000 members — that currently use collective bargaining. They say a reversal of the law would take educators back to a time of favoritism and nepotism.

"We gave up the strike 31-32 years ago," said Kevin King, a teacher at Heritage Middle School. "Can we strike if they take away our bargaining right? Who would be a member without the power of negotiation? It's just further taking advantage of people they can take advantage of." ...   CONTINUED