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House Dems Hold ‘Hearing’ On State Collective Bargaining

By Alyson Klein — March 08, 2011 1 min read
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The biggest story in education right now is the changes to collective bargaining proposed in Ohio, Wisconsin, and elsewhere.

Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican from the Badger state, and others have said that the changes are needed to help states get their finances under control over the long term.

Many Democratic lawmakers in the House of Representatives are none-too-happy about the plans, which they contend would strip state workers, including teachers, of their rights to bargain for fair wages and better working conditions.

But in the House, congressional Democrats are in the minority, which means they can’t exactly call an official hearing on the subject.

So they are using a tactic often employed by members of the minority, GOP or Democratic, to get attention for a range of issues. They are having a sort of press conference that follows the same format as a typical congressional hearing, with witnesses and questions and all the trimmings. One difference is that, usually, members of just one party show up to these kinds of events, while in regular hearings, witnesses take questions from both sides.

The event is being organized by Rep. George Miller, of California, the top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations panel that oversees education spending.

Some of the folks slated to testify are educators, including Courtney Johnson, who teachers English and Humanities for Columbus City Schools in Ohio. Johnson says, “no one goes into teaching for the money, but she expects to be able to provide a middle class life for her family,” according to a press release on the event.

Another witness is Lynn Radcliffe, who works for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. She has “seen her non-unionized co-workers being treated unfairly when it comes to pay, hiring and firing and treatment in the workplace,” according to the release.

If this were a traditional hearing, I’d expect Republican lawmakers to argue that the feds don’t really have much jurisdiction here. State collective bargaining rights are a state issue, they’d likely say.