Forced unionism would harm Tennessee

A Washington, D.C., group on Friday criticized the Service Employees International Union over statements that the union would support legislation that would allow collective bargaining for local government employees in Tennessee if the issue arises.

"When states cave and force collective bargaining, everyone loses," said Brian Johnson, policy director of the Alliance for Worker Freedom, in a statement. Mr. Johnson's group "works to raise awareness of abuses by labor unions," according to its Web site.

"Collective bargaining is nothing more than a vehicle used by the union bosses to hold state budgets hostage," Mr. Johnson is quoted as saying.

Mark Naccarato, a spokesman for SEIU Local 205, which represents a number of public employees in Hamilton County, dismissed the group's statement.

"The Alliance for Worker Freedom looks to be an anti-union think tank," he said. "I don't put much faith in what they say."

Mr. Naccarato said the SEIU would support legislation that would allow collective bargaining in Tennessee, but only if a bill comes up in the General Assembly.

Hamilton County Commissioner Warren Mackey said last month that he disagreed with County Mayor Claude Ramsey's position against mandatory collective bargaining for public employees.

Mr. Johnson said in the statement that he agrees with Mr. Ramsey's opposition to collective bargaining and "strongly urges others to follow suit."

Jimmy Rodgers, an attorney who represents several labor unions including the Chattanooga Area Labor Council and the Chattanooga Building and Construction Trades Council, said unions generally would like to see collective bargaining made legal in Tennessee.

But Mr. Rodgers said the legislative winds likely are not blowing in that direction.

"It doesn't look like that effort would be fruitful," he said.

No statute exists in Tennessee regarding whether or not municipalities and counties can enter into collective bargaining agreements with labor unions. But judicial case law has determined that local governments cannot enter into collective bargaining and employee strikes are illegal in Tennessee. The state Legislature has enacted laws enabling teachers and local transportation system employees to bargain collectively.


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