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TNGOP: Union Push for Ball More Proof He’s On Board with the ‘Obama Agenda’

Press release from the Tennessee Republican Party; September 19, 2014:

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—An extensive ground game and targeting Senator Lamar Alexander. That’s the roadmap for unions in the upcoming November election.

Last night, on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show,” two union bosses highlighted their plans to push Democrats to the polls in the fall.

Leo Gerard, of the steelworkers union, and Larry Cohen, of the communications union, made the comments in response to the host’s question about what unions plan to do. In particular, Cohen discussed making Senator Alexander — who would be chairman of the Senate labor committee in a new Republican Senate majority — the “poster-child” against their efforts because of his strong anti-union stances in the U.S. Senate and defense of Tennessee’s right-to-work laws.

The TNGOP captured the conversation here.

With the news today of his “F-rating” on the 2nd Amendment from the National Rifle Association, Tennessee Democrats’ nominee for the Senate, liberal personal injury lawyer Gordon Ball, is going to need the help from unions in his attempt to defeat Senator Alexander. The AFL-CIO has already endorsed Ball, and now it’s clear union bosses plan to make Lamar Alexander a target this fall.

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney stated, “Liberals are already starting to circle the wagons—in Tennessee and beyond. They know Senator Alexander is going to be a leader in the new Republican Senate majority and they’re desperate to get their base engaged. Unfortunately for Gordon Ball, this information just proves once more he’d be a vote for the Obama agenda in Washington.”

Background

Upcoming UAW Vote at VW Concerns TN Senate Labor, Commerce Cmte Heads

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; February 10, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn, (February 10, 2014) — The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Tennessee’s Senate Commerce and Labor Committee today expressed concern regarding the United Auto Workers (UAW) upcoming vote in Chattanooga, saying a vote for organized labor would harm Tennessee’s reputation as a business-friendly state and reverse the state’s recent progress in automobile-related job growth.

Chairman Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and Vice-Chairman Mark Green (R-Clarksville) said the General Assembly has worked in concert with Governors Phil Bredesen and Bill Haslam for the past several years to move forward policies to support Tennessee’s competitive standing in growing and expanding new and better paying jobs in the state. The lawmakers said that pending decisions of VW employees are of statewide interest at a pivotal time when Tennessee stands currently as a national leader in job creation.

“We greatly value our auto workers, both in Middle Tennessee and in Southeast Tennessee,” said Senator Johnson, a businessman whose legislative district is home to the General Motors Spring Hill plant and Nissan’s North America headquarters.

“Our communities are very similar with great neighborhoods, schools that focus on achievement and a local economy that is envied by many. The automotive industry is a very important part of the quality of life we enjoy.” “As Chattanooga workers vote on the United Auto Workers presence, it is a decision that transcends just one community,” he added. “There is tremendous competition for job growth among states. A vote for organized labor would impede our daily efforts to benefit Tennessee families as we compete nationally in job growth. I ask that Chattanooga lead to honor Tennessee’s competitive spirit so we can continue moving our state’s job growth forward. Chattanooga workers, we don’t need the UAW in our state.”

“In business, reputation means a lot,” added Senator Green, who is a practicing physician and businessman who represents the more rural Clarksville region that competes with industry across the state-line of Kentucky. “Tennessee has developed a reputation of a top location for families and businesses because of the lower cost of living, commitment to an educated workforce and folks keeping more of our wages by holding taxes low.”

“Volkswagen chose our state and your community for important reasons: Chattanooga workers have a great reputation of a great work ethic and make an excellent product. That reputation has been yours without the United Auto Workers,” he continued. “The free market that VW chose in our state produces competition, empowers employees far more than a labor union, and keeps bringing jobs to Tennessee.” The United Auto Workers vote is scheduled for Wednesday, February 12 through Friday, February 14 at the Volkswagen site in Chattanooga.

State Union Chief Worries Employers Will Dump Workers’ Health Plans Under Obamacare

The head of Tennessee’s chapter of the nation’s largest union federation is concerned the unintended consequences of the Affordable Care Act will cause Tennessee employees to be “booted” to the federally run exchanges by employers looking to save a buck.

Gary Moore, a former Democratic state lawmaker who now serves as president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organization’s Tennessee wing, worries that workers here, especially those employed by smaller companies in the construction business, may lose their employer-provided medical coverage.

Moore told TNReport recently he’s concerned that one of the ways employers in Tennessee might “react to the Affordable Care Act” is by altering “the way that they provide insurance coverage to their employees now.” Specifically, companies facing cost-cutting pressures might choose to drop the more expensive, union-backed health insurance plans and “dump” those employees onto the federal exchange, he said.

“Will every employer do it? Probably not. But, will some of them? I can almost guarantee that they will,” said Moore, who served in the Tennessee House of Representatives from 2005 through 2012.

Moore’s concerns about union health plans echo those detailed in the resolution passed by the AFL-CIO at the organization’s quadrennial convention in September. The Tennessee state chapter of AFL-CIO represents more than 60,000 Tennesseans who’re members of 37 international unions and 273 local unions, according to the organization’s website.

The AFL-CIO resolution, which Moore voted to support during the organization’s meeting in Los Angeles, called for the Obama administration to take steps to ensure certain unintended consequences of the Affordable Care Act are avoided. If that’s not possible under the law’s existing structure, then the AFL-CIO “will demand the ACA be amended by Congress,” according to the resolution, which passed on a voice vote.

“Contrary to the law’s intent, some workers might not be able to keep their coverage and their doctors because the federal agencies’ current implementation plans will be highly disruptive to the operation of Taft-Hartley multiemployer plans, substantially changing the coverage available for millions of covered employees and their families,” the resolution stated. “The federal agencies tasked with implementing the law have unnecessarily imposed an interpretation of the Affordable Care Act which imposes additional costs and fees for which plan participants receive no benefit, unnecessarily driving coverage costs higher.”

While the majority of AFL-CIO members supported the resolution calling for the federal government to address their issues with President Obama’s signature law, some members that were present at the convention wanted to see the health care reform package completely repealed and replaced.

Moore said he wasn’t in that camp.

Although Obamacare has its problems, he maintains it is a step in the right direction and needs time to take hold.

“Any law that you pass is subject to have flaws in it,” said Moore. “You don’t address the flaws by not funding it. You come back to the following legislative session and you attempt to correct the problems.”

Plumbers’ Union Lets Campaign Cash Flow, Racks Up $400K Debt

One of the most politically active labor unions in Tennessee is doubling down on the election this year, doling out more campaign cash than it did in 2010 or 2008, even as other unions have cut back on their political giving.

The Plumbers & Pipefitters Education Committee — the Tennessee union’s political arm — has given out $278,300 in campaign contributions so far in 2012, records show. That already has surpassed the $270,100 the union gave during the 2010 election season and the $245,440 it provided to politicians in 2008.

The Plumbers & Pipefitters union has even taken out hundreds of thousands dollars in loans — largely from Farmers & Merchants Bank — apparently to underwrite the union’s political payouts.

Records show the union’s political action committee has an outstanding loan balance of $398,971. Records show the committee taking out loans steadily for years. The last bank loan was for $70,000 received Oct. 12.

It’s unclear what this nearly $400,000 debt will mean for the union’s members.

And the election isn’t over yet. The campaign finance reports for the crucial last days have yet to be filed, so it’s all but certain that the Plumbers & Pipefitters will have far exceeded $300,000 in political giving by Election Day.

Spending more money on candidates this year was not deliberate, said former Secretary of State Riley Darnell, who serves as the union’s political adviser. There are simply more campaigns this year that the union has an interest in.

“We have a lot of candidates in support of working people,” Darnell said. “The need was greater.”

As far as the bank debt, Darnell said he couldn’t comment and that decisions such as taking out loans are made by internal union officials.

Plumbers & Pipefitters has long been one of the biggest political unions on Tennessee’s Capitol hill, frequently cutting five-figure checks to the state Democratic Party and giving large contributions to union-friendly candidates such as former state Sen. Jim Lewis, a Democrat running for a state Senate seat in District 16, which encompasses Marion, Warren and Coffee counties, and Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan, a former Democratic House majority leader.

The plumbers are priming the political pump as other labor unions in Tennessee have curtailed their campaign donations.

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The Tennessee, later known as Mid-South, Carpenters Regional Council political action committee, for example, doled out $68,700 in campaign contributions in 2010. In 2012 that number has dropped to $28,960.

Tennessee’s International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers political action committee spread around $102,500 in campaign cash in 2010. This year, its campaign contributions are $80,700.

And the Tennessee Laborers PAC handed out $73,000 politicians in 2010. In 2012 that has shrunk to $45,500.

You can see the details of the Plumbers & Pipefitters campaign records, as well as all Tennessee campaign finance reports, by clicking here and using the state’s online search database.

The vast majority of union giving is aimed at Democrats and Democratic causes, though some union money is starting to trickle to Republicans. The carpenters union, for example, gave $500 to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s political action committee as well as $2,500 to the Tennessee Republican Caucus. The Laborers gave donations to Gov. BIll Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell’s PAC and state Sen. Jim Tracy from Shelbyville.

The Plumbers & Pipefitters’ giving has heavily favored Democrats.

The union’s escalation in campaign spending comes at a time when public employee unions in Tennessee are facing an increasingly hostile legislature. With Republicans controlling the governor’s mansion and both houses, unions have few seats at the bargaining table.

During the the 2011 legislative session, the Legislature passed efforts to curb union influence in state government and schools. Democratic state lawmakers reacted angrily, but they didn’t have the votes to thwart the measures.

Tennessee isn’t the only place where a union is placing big bets for Election Day.

In Michigan, not only are unions are working toward setting collective bargaining privileges in stone via a provision in the state Constitution, they are also trying to unseat a pair of conservative Justices on the state Supreme Court.

And nationally, the Service Employees International Union has emerged as the top outside spender on Democratic campaigns this year, surpassing even President Barack Obama’s main super PAC.

Trent Seibert can be reached at trent@TNReport.com on Twitter at @trentseibert or at 615-669-9501.

TNGOP: Moore’s Union Ties, Obama Support Spelled Trouble in November

Press Release from the Tennessee Republican Party, April 5, 2012:

TNGOP Chairman’s Statement On Democrat Gary Moore’s Decision Not To Seek Re-Election

NASHVILLE, TN – Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney released the following statement on Democrat State Representative Gary Moore’s decision not to seek re-election. Moore is now the eleventh Democrat legislator who has announced he will not be seeking re-election this year.

“We wish Gary Moore well. It is obvious that his big labor ties were going to be a drag on his candidacy. Moore’s stance on the issues epitomize why Democrats are having so much trouble connecting with Tennessee voters,” said Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney.

In August of last year, Moore was elected to serve as President of the Tennessee Chapter of the AFL-CIO Labor Council, a big union that has once again enthusiastically endorsed President Obama’s campaign. Soon after that announcement, TNGOP Chairman Chris Devaney sent Moore a letter asking him to make a choice between serving the interests of his constituents or the interests of the AFL-CIO.

“While I never received a response from Representative Moore, today, Tennesseans are being made well aware of whom he would prefer to serve,” concluded Devaney.

Recent Democrat retirements include four state senators (Joe Haynes, Roy Herron, Eric Stewart and Andy Berke) and seven state representatives (Eddie Bass, Bill Harmon, Mike McDonald, Gary Moore, Jimmy Naifeh, Janis Sontany and Harry Tindell).

TNGOP Alleges Conflicts of Interest for Rep. Moore

Press Release from the Republican Party of Tennessee, Aug. 29, 2011:

Democrat State Representative Gary Moore was recently elected as President of the Tennessee AFL-CIO and it is causing quite the stir. Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney has pointed out that Rep. Moore’s new position as President of one of the nation’s largest special interest lobbying groups places their chief lobbyist on the floor of the state legislature.

While Rep. Moore has stated he will not register as a lobbyist with the state, it is important to point out that his predecessor was a registered lobbyist with the state. Moore claims that he will be able to separate his duties as a legislator from the statewide union’s lobbying and political activities.

It seems that Rep. Moore is having a difficult time finding the line in the sand between his job as a state legislator and his new job as chief lobbyist for the Tennessee AFL-CIO. In recent interviews the contradictions of Gary Moore are starting to pile-up:

  • Gary Moore says that it “would be inappropriate” for someone serving as a legislator to be a lobbyist. However, Gary Moore seems a bit confused on what lobbying is because he turned around and said “the primary thing I want to do is educate the legislators.” Educating legislators about issues concerning your organization is exactly what lobbyists do.
  • In another interview Gary Moore said he will separate himself from the AFL-CIO’s political activities. However, in a different interview he stated, “One thing you’re going to see is us [AFL-CIO] reaching out to all elected officials and trying to educate them on our concerns and what our issues are.”

Tennessee State Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney commented on Rep. Moore’s contradictions by saying, “If Gary Moore can’t distinguish between what is and what is not lobbying when being questioned about the obvious conflict of interest, how can we expect him to do it in the halls of the legislature when no one is watching?”

Trash Talk In Memphis

Trash workers for the city of Memphis plan to turn out Tuesday to protest a city proposal to privatize garbage collection.

Invoking the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, workers protesting earlier this month carried signs saying, “I am a man,” the same slogan their predecessors used to demand safe working conditions and an end to preferential treatment for white workers. Martin Luther King, Jr., was in Memphis to support the garbage workers when he was assassinated.

That’s the history that one worker interviewed by WMC TV Channel 5 argues would be lost. He says privatization would strip the city of local control and result in poorer service quality, but would also allow history to “fall by the wayside.”

“A lot of these guys did work during the ’68 period. A lot of them worked immediately after the ’68 period, so you have a lot of history associated with what we do,” worker Rod Lobbins tells the station.

But it’s hard to see how a cost-cutting measure would erase or undermine the important legacy Lobbins is talking about. It’s more likely simply to send workers, who reportedly earn as much as $27 an hour or the equivalent of a $56,000 annual salary, to the want ads.

And closing a $60 million budget gap shouldn’t be confused with racism, nor should backroom deals that stick it to city taxpayers, black and white alike.

Lately, the only person whose safety has been in question is Kemp Conrad, the city councilman who proposed privatizing trash service and said it would save $20 million a year. Conrad filed a police report after someone posted on Twitter an angry message referencing a convicted murderer: “let me get very low I wish James Hawkins get out of jail a pay (Conrad’s) kids a visit since Kemp don’t like black people!!”

Look for the rhetoric to stay at its fever pitch until the budget gets passed.

Fox13 News is teasing a story to air tonight about how the city sanitation department “is poorly managed, inefficiently run, and a waste of taxpayer dollars,” featuring a video of a citizen throwing trash into a city truck while a paid worker looks on.

Labor Complaint Against Boeing Opposed by Haslam

Gov. Bill Haslam is among 16 Republican governors to sign a letter to the National Labor Relations Board asking it to dismiss its complaint against aircraft maker Boeing, which plans to operate a plant in South Carolina.

Like Tennessee, South Carolina is a right-to-work state. The NLRB claims Boeing chose to establish an assembly plant in North Charleston, S.C., as retaliation for past labor problems the company has experienced in the state of Washington.

The NLRB formally issued a complaint against Boeing in April.

Republican Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina has written to Lafe Solomon, acting general counsel of the NLRB, taking issue with the agency’s action. The letter was dated June 16, and Haslam is among the signers.

The letter says that although South Carolina is a right-to-work state and Washington isn’t, the aircraft maker continues to invest and create jobs in both states regardless of their different policies on labor. The letter begins by saying the best announcement a governor can make during the recovery from recession is one about new jobs.

“When a company chooses to come to a state, it does so because the state has a low cost of doing business, a trained workforce and a favorable regulatory climate,” the letter said. “If the company chooses to locate in a right-to-work state, that is an added bonus.”

Haslam has repeatedly listed the fact that Tennessee is a right-to-work state as being among the state’s top selling points in attracting new jobs. Haslam has said his top priority is to make Tennessee the No. 1 state in the Southeast for jobs.

The letter initiated by Haley says the NLRB has “overstepped its mandate” to protect workers and has instead chosen to protect only “the interests of organized labor.”

“This undermines the principles of free market capitalism upon which this nation is built,” the letter said. “It is clear that if the NLRB can charge Boeing and punish South Carolina, then it can do so to other companies and other states.”

The letter further states, “When we, as governors, are fighting to improve the economic interests of our states, the federal government should not stand in our way. While governors are trying to break the ties that bind free enterprises from doing business, the federal government should not tell Boeing where it can build airplanes.”

A hearing on the charge opened in Seattle on June 14 before an administrative judge.

On April 28, eight state attorneys general wrote to Solomon, calling on him to withdraw the complaint. Earlier this month, 16 attorneys general filed an amicus brief opposing the NLRB’s action. Tennessee’s attorney general, Bob Cooper, has not been among those signing onto the opposition.

Boeing selected Charleston in 2009 for an assembly line for the company’s 787 Dreamliner.

Tennessee recently found itself in a controversial jobs issue similar to one in South Carolina. Tennessee has struck a deal with Amazon.com to build two distribution centers, with the agreement that Amazon will not have to collect sales taxes in Tennessee on its transactions. The decision was made by former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration, and Haslam has agreed to abide by the agreement. South Carolina lawmakers balked at a similar arrangement with Amazon on collecting taxes, before reversing their decision after Amazon threatened to pull out of the state.

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Party Leaders Plotting 2012 Strategies

State lawmakers may have officially begun their seven-month vacation away from Capitol Hill this month, but top legislative leaders are already evaluating this year’s performance and mapping out their plan for next year’s session and the subsequent election.

Republicans spent the just-concluded session of the Tennessee General Assembly muscling through the kind of legislation that had long been blocked when they sat in the minority. Bloodied, Democrats limped away but unabashedly promised to continue beating back the tide of GOP bills next year — with the ultimate goal of undermining the majority party’s dominance at the polls in November 2012.

In other words, next year’s legislative session may shape up to look a lot like the one that just ended.

“Tennessee Republicans have talked a lot about what we would do when we took power. Now we are showing what we can do,” Lt. Gov. Ramsey said in a statement he posted on Facebook recently. “This year was just an appetizer. Next year, and in the years to come, you will see the main course.”

Ramsey was celebrating what he dubbed a “Republican Session,” filled with policy overhauls that would have constituted mere pipe dreams prior to the 2010 election.

“With Republicans now in power, I no longer have to focus on trying to mitigate the damage of backward Democrat policies, I can lead the charge for positive change,” declared Ramsey.

House Democratic ringleaders have been making the case that the both-barrels-blazing confidence exhibited by the “cowboy down the hall” will over time misfire and jam the Republican Party’s chances of maintaining their unalloyed superiority beyond next session.

In particular, the GOP’s rough treatment of core Democratic Party constituencies  — public employee unions, trial lawyers, immigrants, gay and lesbian rights activists — will come back to shoot the Tennessee Republican Party in the foot when voters speak their minds at the polls, predicts House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner.

The minority-party battle plan going forward is to paint Republicans — particularly those of the Senate — as politically irresponsible, too socially conservative and too oblivious to national media perceptions about Tennessee to lead the state legislature, Turner indicted.

“We had an image that everyone is barefoot and bucktoothed with cowlicks on both sides. We came a long way to diminish some of that,” Turner said of his own party’s decades-long reign in Tennessee.

The Old Hickory firefighter specifically criticized sexual orientation-related bills like the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation — which passed in the Senate but never made it out of the House — and the Equal Access to Intrastate Commerce Act, passed with the support of nine Democrats in the House and signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam Monday, which keeps local governments from enacting anti-discrimination mandates on businesses.

“If you look at news clips from across the country, it seemed like we made the paper a whole lot more,” Turner said of the 2011 session.

Turner, whose caucus lost 14 seats in last fall’s election and who barely survived his own tough re-election race, says Tennessee is at its core a politically moderate state, at least by Southern standards. And Republicans fanning the flames of cultural discord by pushing divisive social-issue legislation will translate into Democrats winning back centrist voters’ confidence in November 2012, Turner said.

That is, unless Speaker Beth Harwell and Republican Leader Gerald McCormick successfully pull the party leftward, he said.

“If the Republicans get back to the middle of the road, they can end up ruling for a long time in this state. But I truly believe that if they take the course they’re taking now we’ll be back in power in a very short time,” Turner said.

“Fortunately for us, it appears they’re going to be extreme, and if we can articulate our points, learn from our past mistakes, (we can) hopefully get Democrats back in power in this state,” Turner continued.

McCormick told TNReport Friday he’ll take his chances siding with Republicans of any stripe before he’ll take political advice from Turner. The Chattanooga real-estate broker said he has a hunch Tennesseans as a whole are more conservative than Democrats tend to want to believe.

“He’s always stirring the pot. That’s his job as their caucus chairman,” McCormick said, adding that he feels good about where the Republican Party is at right now. “I’ll be proud to run for re-election on our accomplishments on the first part of this session. We will certainly hold our own in next year’s election.”

Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, the Democratic Party’s Leader in the House,  warned when he was first elected to his leadership post that if Democrats don’t have a seat at the table, they’ll “be on the menu.”

Things didn’t go as badly as they could have, suggested Fitzhugh. The Democrats did, after all, vote in unanimity with Republicans on a state budget that included an unemployment-benefits extension Democrats lauded as a modest but nevertheless key legislative victory.

“We were at the table, but we certainly didn’t get the same portion as everybody else,” Fitzhugh said to TNReport on the last day of the legislative session. “We stayed at the table for a while, then we were pretty much locked out,” particularly when it came to the collective bargaining debate, which became the Legislature’s capstone bill this year.

But while Fitzhugh, too, characterized some of the Republican legislation as “extreme,” he said Democrats can’t be satisfied with watching the GOP-led action from the cheap seats assuming that come November 2012, their two-year nightmare will come to a merciful end.

“We don’t have much control over what (Republicans) put out. We have to do our best to defeat legislation we don’t think is in the best interest for the state or make it better,” the Ripley Democrat said.

That Was Then, This Is Now

Jimmy Naifeh, a 36-year veteran of the Tennessee General Assembly and House speaker for 18 of those years, is among the most vocal Democratic legislators opposing GOP efforts to limit or eliminate collective bargaining for public school teachers.

But this isn’t the first time the crafty Covington lawmaker has figured prominently in Tennessee’s tug-of-war between workers’ rights and respecting local school board autonomy.

He has, however, switched sides on the issue.

The legislation currently in the Tennessee General Assembly — the House version of which is scheduled for a vote on the chamber floor this evening — is an attempt to rein in or repeal the 1978 Education Professional Negotiations Act, a law that forces local school districts to bargain with unions when certain thresholds of teacher support are met. (UPDATE: The House on Monday put off voting on HB130 until Thursday.)

Under the terms of the 1978 law, still in effect today, when those conditions are met, a “professional employees’ organization” is awarded sole and formal negotiating authority to “(deal) with boards of education concerning, but not limited to, grievances, wages, hours of employment or conditions of work.”

The 1978 act was designed “to protect the rights of individual employees in their relations with boards of education, and to protect the rights of the boards of education and the public in connection with employer-employee disputes affecting education,” according to Tennessee state code.

When 30 percent of teachers in a district demand a vote to be unionized — and a majority of those teachers voting in the special election choose a union to represent them — then that union is awarded the designation as the district’s “exclusive representative” for teachers. That role gives the union sole privileges to negotiate on behalf of all teachers in the district. With that state-mandated recognition comes the power to exclude from labor discussions with the school board any and all competitors and individuals who wish to negotiate alternative or competing agreements.

The Act passed when Naifeh was in his fourth year as a state representative. The Senate passed it on a 20-10 vote. The House passed it 60-38. It was signed on March 10, 1978 by Democratic Gov. Ray Blanton, who, according to a Tennessean article written the next day, “made a surprise visit” to a Tennessee Education Association convention in Nashville so that teachers could witness him officially make it law.

But Naifeh was by no means then the champion of mandatory collective bargaining that he is now.

In fact, Naifeh and then-state Rep. John Tanner were “viciously opposed” to giving unions the power to force collective bargaining with local school districts, said Rep. Lois DeBerry, D-Memphis, who was present at the debate and voted in favor of the 1978 Act. Tanner served 22 years as a United States Congressman from Tennessee’s 8th Congressional District after 12 years in the state House of Representatives.

“They tried every rule, everything in the book to stop it,” DeBerry said of Naifeh and Tanner.

Tanner didn’t respond to requests for comment for this article.

In audio recordings of House floor debate over the 1978 Act, Naifeh can be heard attempting to add amendments to the bill that were derided by supporters of collective bargaining as delaying tactics or attempts to kill the union-friendly legislation.

Naifeh in 1978 was a supporter of local control, and he argued that the state was imposing its will on the districts by forcing them to recognize and exclusively negotiate with a teachers union.

“All I’m asking is that you give the people of your district the opportunity to decide whether or not they want to have professional negotiations,” Naifeh at one point pleaded with his House colleagues.

But between the fiery debates then and now, Naifeh has done a 180-degree change of course.

“I made a mistake, and I have admitted that many times,” Naifeh told TNReport earlier this legislative session. “At the time, it just didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t think it was the way to go.”

However, he added, “Once it got in place and all, I realized that we needed collective bargaining.”

And if anything, the former House speaker is even more adamant today in supporting collective bargaining for teachers than he was against the idea in 1978. He’s often among the most incensed Democratic voices as GOP-driven developments unfold seemingly beyond his or his party’s influence.

“I’ve never seen anything more political in my years in this Legislature than what has gone on in the first few months, and I am sick and tired of it,” Naifeh thundered during one House subcommittee debate earlier this year.

Naifeh said he changed his mind on public-sector organizing after talking to school board members and his local director of schools, who told him “it gives them an opportunity to be able to sit down with the teachers and discuss these things in a very civil manner.”

“It may not have been a mistake then,” Naifeh said of his 1978 vote, “but today and even a few years after that, I can see where it was playing a role.”

Former Tennessee Education Association President George Kersey Jr. told the Tennessean in 1978 that the legislation was not “specifically designed for the TEA or its affiliates,” but would instead give teachers a choice about which organization could represent them.

Nevertheless, TEA has come to dominate teacher unionization in Tennessee, representing two-thirds of the 64,229 public and secondary school teachers. The other association that represents school employees in the state, the Professional Educators of Tennessee, has only about 5,000 teachers.

Jack Johnson, the Senate sponsor of the proposal to repeal collective bargaining and replace the system with a more open and less regulated system of communication between teachers and school boards, said he believes there’s little objective evidence to warrant continued support of mandatory collective bargaining in 2011.

“I think that it is clear if you look over the history of collective bargaining that it hasn’t worked,” said Johnson, a Franklin Republican who ushered his bill to passage in the Senate on an 18-14 vote earlier this month. “So, why he could be against it then and for it now, I do not understand.”

Johnson added that there’s “plenty of evidence where (collective bargaining) has created an adversarial and hostile relationship between teachers’ unions and the school boards.”

In fact, injecting a dose of political strife into how locally elected school boards conduct their affairs may have been partly by design. Responding to the suggestions that mandating collective bargaining would be a recipe for pitting teachers and school boards against one another, one lawmaker who supported collective bargaining commented during the 1978 House floor debate that “in some rural areas, tranquility and mediocrity have gone hand in hand.”

House records from that year reveal concerns about teacher input, and whether the bill would add to education problems or solve them — issues echoed in the current debate over tenure and teachers’ unions.

Then like now, teachers turned out in force at the Capitol to rally in support of state-mandated collective bargaining. They were “packing the galleries” during the House debate, according to the Tennessean.

Reid Akins, Andrea Zelinski and Mark Engler contributed to this story.