Public-sector workers such as police and teachers burdened by the pandemic’s workload are trying to fight back against a bill in the Florida Senate that would make them proactively confirm whether they want to remain in a union.
State Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, said Senate Bill 78, which he sponsors, is about making sure workers have the final say about their hard-earned money.
But Charla Fox, who teaches high school math in Lee County — the same district as Rodrigues — said the bill is unnecessary, since Florida already is a “right-to-work” state.
“We are working so hard during this pandemic to try and make things right for our kids that it feels like a slap in the face,” said Fox. “That you’re saying that we don’t deserve it. They may be thinking they are doing us a favor but they are not.”
The bill, which is advancing through the Senate with another committee stop on Monday, changes the process of deducting union dues from employee paychecks.
Employers would have to confirm with each employee first, and critics say it will be too costly for all, including taxpayers, to mandate an added step to a voluntary process.
Rich Templin, director of politics and public policy for the Florida AFL-CIO, said the bill is based on ideology from wealthy out-of-state groups.
“And Florida is just one of ten states that they have filed this legislation in,” said Templin. “It didn’t come from Florida. It’s not addressing any problems in Florida. It’s simply harassment of those workers who are risking their lives every day during this pandemic.”
The bill tees up an intense debate when the legislative session begins in March. Groups supporting the bill include Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity.
Others opposed include the Florida Education Association, the United Faculty of Florida, the Florida Professional Firefighters and the Florida Police Benevolent Association.
Templin said if passed, it would mark the first time employers in Florida would be injected into the union deduction process and expected to burden the costs.