By Steve Hunley

State Representative Gloria Johnson is, as usual, mighty sore at the administration of Governor Bill Lee. Turns out Johnson is mad because the governor is stingy with that there taxpayer money. Readers will recall Governor Lee has called the state legislature into special session to deal with some education topics. Johnson is unhappy and complaining to anyone who will listen the 2% raise “is actually a onetime 1% raise as best we can tell.” Johnson is steamed because, “They call it a 2% raise but it’s only 2% of half a year of salary because they’re giving it for half the year.” The outraged Johnson says it’s like leaving a penny tip at a restaurant. Johnson says teachers should get a 10% raise “but anything less than 4-5% is an insult.”

Okay, let’s review some facts. The average salary earned by teachers, who work nine months of the year, is $47,800. That’s the average. With the pandemic, teachers didn’t work from March until the end of the school year and still collected full salary. That’s right, FULL salary. What’s insulting is Johnson and her ilk have little or no use for the actual working family who pay the taxes, which in turn pay the teachers. In Knox County, teachers have received about 15% in pay raises over the last few years. Do you know of any other class of public employee who receives a pay raise every year? Teachers do. Furthermore, do you know of any other public employee who has gotten approximately 15% in raises over the last few years?

I hear a lot of talk about the “heroes of the pandemic” but to me, it’s mostly the typical folks going to work and still doing their jobs under really difficult circumstances. That includes teachers, too. Folks sending their kids to school during these times, not only to learn but so they can work for a living, but nobody is talking about them.

Not everybody has been working and not everybody has been collecting full salary while they aren’t working. There are all kinds of public employees who perform important jobs that benefit the public and they’ve been going to work every day during the worst of the COVID crisis. Unfortunately, there are a lot of small businesses that have closed and many will likely never open their doors again. There are a lot of people who have lost their jobs and are struggling to find ways to make ends meet. There are youngsters stocking the shelves with food and products from the first day of the pandemic until now. There are the folks who have kept our lights on and our heat going. The people who deliver our mail daily, the folks who pick up our trash each week. The folks who keep the waterworks going. The folks at the pharmacy who fill our prescriptions still. The technicians who keep our internet working and allowing us to stream Netflix.

There are those on the front lines in hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices.

There are the folks who deliver pizzas and groceries when folks who are able to shelter at home call, including teachers. Each of these folks, believe it or not, are exposed every day and have you heard any of them bellyaching they would be insulted should they not receive a raise of 10% or more? Without those folks, a lot of cupboards would be bare. There are the factory workers working overtime to produce enough of the products and goods were need, as well as the truck drivers who deliver them to the stores and outlets. There are the farmers who grow the food, which is delivered to stores or our doors.

There are millions of Americans like this all over the country who deserve more than our thanks, praise and commendation. If and when we come out at the other end of this difficult time, it will be precisely because of a great many ordinary, hardworking Americans who went to work, did their jobs, and made a real difference. It wasn’t the elite, nor was it the wealthy or privileged or one class of public employees who will have brought the people of this country through a dark time.

Also, using up surplus funds now may prove to be disastrous tomorrow. We’re not through the pandemic as of yet and time will only tell what we will face around the corner. It’s tone deaf for a clarion call to action, but it’s also spitting into the wind as the legislature barely realizes Johnson is there.

Teachers deserve praise for all they’ve done during this trying time, but so do most folks who are still working.

Gloria Johnson was a teacher and that’s who she bellows for the loudest while in Nashville. There are a heck of a lot of folks who work hard every day, try to put food on the table and raise their kids. Most of them are what we call Tennesseans.

If you doubted that last statement Johnson is now griping about her office accommodations in Nashville. Last Friday the office assignments made for the House of Representatives were announced and Gloria Johnson did not like her own office space. The real difficulty is the office given to Johnson’s assistant which literally looks like a closet with tiles missing from the ceiling. That is inappropriate and the woman assigned to serve as Johnson’s assistant ought to have better and decent quarters.

“Give a member a closet for an office?” Johnson complained. “And her 65-year old assistant a literal closet with ceiling tiles out, that her desk won’t even fit in? I mean that’s not how we get to unity.”

The assistant certainly does deserve an actual office. Putting an assistant in a closet is humiliating and demeaning to the person, who is a state employee. Johnson’s comments about “unity” are even less believable than Joe Biden’s. Gloria Johnson’s idea of unity is everybody agreeing with her and that’s how she’s acted in Nashville. Johnson has not, to the best of my memory, ever shown any interest in crossing the aisle to work with any Republican. Nor has Johnson seemed particularly interested in compromising with anybody to get much of anything done, which doesn’t ever bode well for unity. Like most of those hollering about “healing” and “unity” presently, it appears to be a one-way street.

Few representatives in the State Capitol are less likely to actually accomplish anything than Gloria Johnson. That having been said, her assistant deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.