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Tenn. Workers Rally Against Cutbacks, Shutdowns

March 18, 2011

Tenn. Workers Rally in Nashville
Sparta, Tenn., Local 2143 President Bo McCurry speaks to the rally about the campaign to save the Philips lighting fixture plant. ..

Community, faith and labor organizations from acrossTennessee rallied Tuesday at the state capitol building in Nashville to speak out against anti-worker legislation under consideration in the General Assembly.


The legislation would outlaw collective bargaining for teachers and take away the right of workers to voluntarily contribute to political candidates using payroll deductions.

Says Tenth District International Representative Jim Springfield:

They are trying to make it harder for workers to support candidates of their own choosing, which means even more influence for CEOs and big corporate special interests in Nashville.

In his State of the State address Monday night, Gov. Bill Haslam announced millions in cutbacks to vital social services, including the state’s Medicaid system and the Department of Financial Services, which helps monitor abuse by financial speculators and banks.

But as Sparta Local 2143 President Bo McCurry says:

Tennessee doesn’t have a deficit problem, it has a jobs problem.

McCurry, a 23-year employee of the Philips lighting fixture plant in Sparta, travelled with a group of his co-workers to Nashville to tell lawmakers that they want their priority to be fighting unemployment, starting with them telling Philips to keep good jobs in Tennessee.

Netherlands-based Philips announced in November it would be shutting down the award-winning plant next year and sending operations to Mexico, putting 275 employees out of work.

McCurry, speaking to the crowd of more than 1,000 said:

Every plant shutdown puts our state budget even deeper in the hole. Every job outsourced means less funding for our schools, police and fire departments.

More than 200 IBEW members came to Nashville, including more than 100 from Memphis Local 1288, which sent two buses.

Says Local 1288 Business Manager William Thompson:

These lawmakers want to take away everyone’s right to collectively bargain – not just teachers. It’s a full-out assault on our basic rights.

More than a dozen state and federal lawmakers were also in attendance.

Rally attendees were denied entrance to the capitol building after they tried to deliver their own response to Haslam’s State of the State address.

Hotel worker Darrell Bouldin, one of the hundreds turned away told WZTV-TV:

This is the people’s house and I feel we have the right to be here.

The state Senate Commerce Committee, which was supposed to take up discussion on the “paycheck deception” bill on Tuesday, backtracked and cancelled hearings. No new date has been set.

A group of United Campus Workers members, which represents workers at the state university system, and their student supporters managed to get into the committee hearing room to call on senators to respond to their criticisms of the bill. They were forcibly removed and arrested by the police.  

United Campus Worker member Jared Story told WZTV-TV:

I don’t think legislators should have removed them. I think they should have listened.

Click here to find out more about the campaign to keep the Philips plant open.