Hello, my name is Chris Brooks.
Back in the 2011, I joined 30 other community activists in hopping on a bus chartered by the Hamilton County Education Association to drive to Nashville and stand beside thousands of others from across the state in the pouring rain as we rallied against the Tennessee General Assembly’s attacks on the collective bargaining rights of educators.
We were joined by parents, students, construction workers sporting hard hats, police officers and fire fighters, church groups, and union members holding giant banners. I had never seen a public protest in Tennessee as big as the protest on that day. I haven’t seen one that big since, either.
It was at that rally that I learned from a teacher about this group called the Professional Educators of Tennessee, which claimed to represent teachers, but was actively lobbying in support of the state government’s attempts to repeal the rights of teachers and silence them from having a voice on the job.
I was dumbfounded. How could this be? Why would anyone ever be a member of such an organization? How could that even be legal? I just couldn’t understand.
Come to find out, Tennessee has a long history of “yellow unions,” which are organizations that claim to represent workers while actively advancing the interests of corporations. At one time, yellow unions were common in factory towns and coal mines across the state. If the owners and bosses got a whiff of unionization among the workers, they would create a fake union to “represent” the workers. The bosses would then handpick the leaders of the yellow unions, making sure to select those workers that had been thoroughly co-opted and were willing to help management in ensuring that the union never had any real power and that the workers never made any real demands. During the New Deal, Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which made yellow unions illegal for workers employed in the private sector. Emphasis on private sector. Workers in the public sector, like teachers, aren’t covered by the NLRA – and the privatizers know it.
Over the past few decades, there has been a huge explosion of yellow teacher unions in states all across the country. It is no coincidence that these organizations are rising at the exact same time that the attacks on public education and teachers are rising as well. The privatizers know that the single greatest obstacle to the corporate takeover of public schools are unionized teachers. By pushing so-called “right to work” laws, outlawing collective bargaining and promoting yellow teachers unions, the billionaires and corporate interests hope to take the fight out of the movement to defend public schools, all in the name of turning schools into corporations and students into profits.
This website has been created in the hopes of educating more people about how groups like PET are actively working to stomp out the spark of resistance that was ignited on March 5, 2011, when thousands of people from across our state joined together in Nashville to fight back against the attacks on educators and public education. PET might have succeeded in repealing the collective bargaining rights of teachers, but that spark continues to burn – and I am now using it, like that teacher did for me, to cast light on PET. Every PET member should know how their dues money was used by PET’s paid staff to secretly lobby the legislature and encourage our elected officials to strip teachers of their fundamental rights. Every PET member should know the long history that PET’s executive director, J.C. Bowman, has advocating for the corporate takeover of public schools.
I hope you will join me in sharing this information with others so that the spark can grow – until we win.
This website is a completely independent and volunteer project of a labor activist and public school advocate. All materials, opinions, and content contained herein have been created voluntarily and freely for one purpose: to educate and inform the public about the devastating role that yellow unions like PET have had on their members and the public schools of Tennessee. Please, feel free to share this site and the materials herein, comment on the pages and posts.
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Have any questions? Want to share a story or provide information about PET? Feel free to contact me at: email@example.com
You can read my other writings at www.chactivist.com