“My son is a senior at Lebanon High School, and I think they (teachers) should have the right to bargain for their benefit,” said Mark Waters, a Lebanon resident who has worked for Southwest Airlines for more than 27 years and is a union member.
Some teachers who stood with signs felt if they lose the right to collectively bargain, then students and the education system in Tennessee will suffer the consequences.
Alan Chiupka, who has been a teacher at M.A.P. Academy in Lebanon for 13 years, felt young people will begin looking to other professions besides teaching if the right to collectively bargain is lost.
“Nobody is going to want to be a teacher anymore,” Chiupka said. “Teachers have just as much education as other professions, but they get paid less.”
Lee Hostetteler, a Lebanon resident and parent of a county school student, felt the bill would not benefit education at all. He said he decided to come to the Square Thursday afternoon to support the teachers in the county and their rights.
“Quality education is important to me and silencing teachers is not going to benefit education,” Hostetteler said.
Many who showed up felt the bill was not about saving money or cutting budgets, but rather by weakening political opponents. Tom Clark, a retired teacher from McMinn County in Southeast Tennessee who lives in Watertown, said the bill is not going to benefit education at all and is purely political.
“It’s all politics in this, there’s no savings in doing away with collective bargaining.” Clark said.
There was at least one voice among the gathering that supported the bill to end collective bargaining. Daniel Alsup, a Lebanon resident, noted his father was “a union steward” but said he felt too much of Wilson County’s budget was going to education already.
“How much is enough?” Alsup asked the teachers around him, holding a sign with a pie chart that said 70-percent of the county’s budget was allocated for education. “These are facts,” he repeated.
Alsup told the teachers and their supporters that instead of standing up against this legislation they should be protesting in front of the Wilson County Board of Education for how they spend the money that is allocated for education.
“We can get into a very deep conversation about what the school board does with this money,” Alsup said.
While the teachers asked him how much he’d like to see the education budget in Wilson County lowered, Alsup said he didn’t have a figure, but pointed out emergency services and other county offices are very poorly funded.
Across the street, in the windows of the Lannon & Williams law office, signs read “We stand with teachers and unions.” Employees from the office placed a table outside their front door with hot coffee and other refreshments for the people gathered on the Square.
“I honestly think people in this state want to do as much as they can for superior education except pay for it,” Chiupka noted.
Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at email@example.com.