NASHVILLE — Union groups rallied today in support of the Tennessee Education Association, calling Senate Republican efforts to abolish collective bargaining by teachers and outlaw all political contributions by unions a “direct attack on freedom.”
“They have said ... that unions are an obstacle to progress,” Tennessee Citizen Action Executive Director Mary Mancini told at least 150 union members inside Legislative Plaza. “We’re here to state unequivocally that they’re the obstacles to progress.”
Republicans are pushing a raft of bills attacking the Tennessee Education Association, including the measure that would end mandatory collective bargaining with school boards in districts where a majority of educators support it.
Teachers are the only public employees group that have mandatory collective bargaining rights in Tennessee although some unions have agreements with local government entities.
Chattanooga firefighter Rusty Rymer, secretary-treasurer of the Chattanooga Firefighters Association, drew laughs when he told the crowd, “I’m going to take a risk and say I’m also a Republican.”
He said some Republicans want to take choice and freedoms away from public employees, calling it “hypocritical.”
“While citizens in the Middle East protest freedom, our own legislators want to ban public employees from being involved in political freedom,” he said.
Former House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, of College Grove, a sponsor of many of the bills, later said Republicans have not launched an assault on working people.
“No. 1, I would contend that the unions hurt those that work,” Casada said. “They’re a level of bureaucracy between myself and my management. ... I’m a working person. And I don’t want a union negotiating for me or interfering for me. I want to interface directly with my management.”
Wednesday’s event was billed by unions as a news conference. Groups are planning March 15 rally at the state Capitol.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...