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States join Wisconsin in pushing collective bargaining bills

As the fight over union rights continues to rage in Wisconsin, at least four other states have become battlegrounds as well. It has been reported that Iowa, Tennessee, Indiana and Ohio have all had thousands show up at their respective statehouses to protest ongoing legislative attempts to limit union power.

The Iowa Independent reported earlier today that around 1,000 union members and their supporters turned up in Des Moines to protest House Study Bill 117, which would take away health insurance and retirement plan negotiation rights from unionized public employees. State Sen. Mike Gronstal (D) compared the bill to Wisconsin’s legislation at a rally Tuesday.

Tennessee has not received as much press as some of the other battleground states, but Republicans there have been quietly working to dismantle collective bargaining for teachers in recent weeks. Last week, the Tennessee Senate Education Committee approved a bill co-sponsored by Republican lawmakers in Tennessee’s House and Senate that “abolishes teachers’ unions ability to negotiate terms and conditions of professional service with local boards of education.” Republicans control both houses of Tennessee’s General Assembly, as well as the governorship, so it is entirely likely that the bill will pass under the radar into state law while the nation focuses on Wisconsin.

Breaking news from Indiana reports that Republicans in the legislature have agreed to kill a “right to work” bill that would have limited union power. Their concession follows the news yesterday that Democrats in Indiana’s House of Representatives had followed a cue from their Wisconsin counterparts and fled the state in order to block a vote on the measure. The news that the bill has been killed for the time being surely won’t sit well with Jeff Cox, a deputy attorney general in Indiana, who advocated on Twitter that police “use live ammunition” against protesters in states like Wisconsin. Still, Politico reports that Republicans in the state are already talking about reviving the bill at a less-sensitive later date.

Ohio Democrats, on the other hand, can’t follow suit in leaving the state because the Ohio General Assembly considers a simple majority to be a quorum. Since Republicans hold a majority in both the House and Senate in Ohio, if Democratic legislators were to flee the state, Republicans could just push Senate Bill 5, which would do away with collective bargaining for state employees, through without opposition. An estimated 5,500 protesters appeared at the state capitol Tuesday to demonstrate against the bill.

And in North Carolina, a group of around 100 protesters turned up at the capitol building in Raleigh Monday to protest the lack of collective bargaining rights for public employees in the state. A 1959 law in the state bans collective bargaining by public employees outright. While this is not the first protest of the law in North Carolina —t he North Carolina HOPE Coalition was founded in 2002 specifically to push for collective bargaining rights — the press coverage of such movements in other states may give the protesters a bit more momentum in their attempts to challenge it.

Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell expressed his support for Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Wisconsin Republicans in a recent radio interview. Virginia and North Carolina are currently the only two states in the nation with laws on the books barring public employees from collective bargaining.

Yet as all these state governments debate cracking down on union rights, a new Gallup poll indicates that the number of Americans who support collective bargaining outnumber those who oppose it by a factor of two-to-one. In reporting the poll, Fox & Friends, a flagship Fox News show, switched the results, alleging that 61 percent of Americans are in favor of taking away collective bargaining rights and just 33 percent oppose doing so. In fact, the results showed just the opposite, with 61 percent for collective bargaining rights and 33 percent against. This is not the first time Fox News has presented an inaccurate picture of polling results, although in this instance, anchor Brian Kilmeade did issue a correction in the final minute of the show.

While there have been rallies in support of Wisconsin unions in other Republican-controlled states, including New Mexico, no other state legislatures have yet come forward with collective bargaining bills in recent weeks, though that certainly may change depending on what happens in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

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