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No Collective Bargaining for Public Employees

Arkansas is trying to strip state workers of bargaining rights

Kris LaGrange's picture
Mar 17, 2021

Legislation to prevent some public employees from bargaining is being considered in the Arkansas House this week.

The bill would prevent union workers at state agencies, colleges, and public schools from bargaining with the state. According to the bill’s author, Sen. Bob Ballinger, firefighters, police, and certain transit workers would be exempt as well as city and county unions. Additionally, the bill would require covered agencies or school districts to fire any workers who engage in a strike.

Ballinger pointed to Little Rock’s decision to end collective bargaining with their district's teacher’s union as a reason that the bill is needed. That decision left the state with no current collective bargaining agreements between teachers and districts.

The House Committee on Public Health, Welfare, and Labor voted to pass Senate Bill 341 on Tuesday. It now goes to a full vote by the House. If it passes that vote and the Senate agrees to changes made to the bill by the House, it will head to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.

Unions attended the hearing and spoke out against the bill. "Already in this state, we have limited access to bargaining," Tracey Ann Nelson, the President of the Arkansas Education Association said, adding later, "Arkansas educators have been meeting what's been asked of them for several years now and deserve to be treated as professionals. They deserve the same rights as other esteemed public employees and the same opportunity to have their voices heard."

The teachers were joined by the Arkansas AFL-CIO and the Arkansas Professional Firefighters Association. Although firefighters were not included in the bill, their union still spoke out in opposition to this attack on collective bargaining.

Wade Marshall, president of the Arkansas Professional Firefighters Association said that his union opposes the bill because it is an overreach by the state government and that state law already doesn’t require an agency to negotiate with the union. "If they choose to do it, this would actually be impairing their rights as well as the employees," Marshall said.

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