Teachers Take Rally From State Capitol To Franklin
FRANKLIN, Tenn. - Hundreds of teachers in Williamson County rallied for change Wednesday evening.
The rally started at the Embassy Suites in Franklin around 4:30 p.m. They are protesting a bill proposed in the state legislature that would take away their collective bargaining rights. In essence, the teachers' union would no longer be able to negotiate their contracts.
"They've taken this opportunity to see how much they can pull us apart, but I don't think they realize how united we really are," said Kawanda Braxton, president of the Williamson County Education Association.
Earlier in the day, teachers packed the Senate Education Committee at the State Capitol. This week, there's a new fight against a push to take the Tennessee Education Association off the board of the state retirement system.
For years, the TEA, and other groups have represented a number of their employees. The TEA feels teachers could lose their voice.
"And let our voices be heard by our representatives," Braxton said.
Williamson County Representative Glen Casada said he and other lawmakers are not "union-busting" as some people have said. But Casada feels perhaps the day of the union has come and gone.
"They just serve, in a lot of cases, as an obstruction, not an aid to reform, and to move forward. So to some extent, yes," Representative Casada explained.
Republicans said they disagree.
"All of these organizations are coming off, that is the policy decision that was made by the senate government operations last year, that every single one of these organizations is going to come off, and come out of the code," said Sen. Brian Kelsey.
Labor groups are now rallying around the TEA.
"This is a direct attack on freedom. The freedom of overworked, and overwhelmed teachers to negotiate for fair pay and better working conditions," said Mary Mancini with Tennessee Citizen Action.
With a new Republican majority, there's a belief they are trying to break up labor unions. This legislative session, lawmakers also debating a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for labor groups to contribute to political candidates.
Republicans insist they are not trying to bust up the teacher's union in the collective bargaining issue.
"This will benefit teachers because without mandatory collective bargaining, they have a choice you have competition among professional organizations that represent teachers, and with competition comes excellence," said Sen. Jack Johnson.
Protestors said there is the chance the widespread protests like the ones in Wisconsin could happen here, if lawmakers don't listen to their voices.
"We want our voices heard, we will have our voices heard, one way or another," according to Braxton.
The TEA is also planning a rally at the State Capitol on March 5. The Tea Party will also be there.