Lawmakers in several states have launched a broadside against public employees, aiming to cut their pay, slash their benefits, and strip them of their collective bargaining rights. Pivoting off the myth that public employees are getting paid more than their private sector counterparts, governors and state legislatures are scapegoating public workers for their states’ respective budget woes.
One of the biggest targets for these conservatives have been teachers. In fact, lawmakers in at least seven states have proposed stripping teachers of some of their collective bargaining rights:
WISCONSIN: Gov. Scott Walker (R), who threatened to call the National Guard on public employees who protested his severe budget cuts, has proposed stripping teachers of all collective bargaining rights except for the right to negotiate wages — and any increase would be capped even before the negotiation starts. Hundreds of Wisconsin high school students walked out of class yesterday to protest Walker’s plans.
OHIO: Ohio Republicans, joined by Gov. John Kasich (R), proposed a bill stripping collective bargaining rights from teachers, leaving only wages negotiable. The bill would also allow districts to unilaterally terminate collective bargaining agreements. Kasich said that if the state legislature doesn’t pass the bill, he will insert its provisions into his budget proposal.
IDAHO: Idaho schools superintendent Tom Luna (R) “has proposed legislation that would limit collective bargaining to teacher compensation, and exclude unions from deliberations over the design of education policies.”
INDIANA: A bill sponsored by three Republican lawmakers in Indiana would “remove certain items from collective bargaining negotiations, including teacher-evaluation procedures [and] teacher-dismissal procedures.” The bill, part of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ (R) education agenda, has already advanced out of one of the state’s Senate committee.
TENNESSEE: Tennessee’s state Senate Education Committee will vote today on a proposal to completely eliminate collective bargaining for teachers, barring teachers from having any outside representation. The legislation surprised many Tennessee teachers, as just last year they negotiated with the state (and made concessions) to craft a new system for teacher evaluation that helped the state win the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program.
ILLINOIS: Groups in Illinois are pushing Republican lawmakers to allow school board to mandate that teachers follow a particular contract, if negotiations are not completed in a certain timeframe, giving districts every incentive to stall and them unilaterally impose their own terms.
NEBRASKA: A bill filed by state Sen. John Nelson would explicitly prohibit the state from participating in collective bargaining; his gripe is that the state “when considering wage and benefit disputes, weighs what employees in similar jobs in other states are getting.” In all, nine bills before the state legislature deal with collective bargaining and the state’s commission that handles labor disputes.
FLORIDA: Gov. Rick Scott (R) wants to limit collective bargaining for teachers to wages and benefits, even though such a move would likely violate the state’s constitution.
MICHIGAN: Lawmakers in Michigan are attempting to strip public employee’s of collective bargaining rights, even though Gov. Rick Snyder (R) had previously said that such a move was unlikely.
These right-wing groups and lawmakers are using the guise of a budget crisis to push through changes to collective bargaining that have nothing to do with the budget. Through collective bargaining, not only can teachers negotiate a fair wage, but they can also ensure that work conditions are optimal and due process is employed when it comes to hiring and firing decisions. Taking these rights away will not alleviate budget deficits.
Of course, at the same time that they are using budget woes to justify attacks on teachers, many of these same states (Ohio, Florida, and Idaho) are proposing new rounds of corporate tax cuts that would blow bigger holes in their already ugly budgets.