Recently the House passed HB 11, legislation that would require labor unions representing public sector workers to certify they have more than half of the workers signed up as members every single year. In their view this will empower workers to somehow bargain better contracts and benefits and, they swear, in no way an attempt to strip workers of their right to a voice on the job.
It could be they just don’t understand how a union, in a “right to work for less” state like Florida, operates in a modern workplace. The wages, retirement, health care and other benefits that a union like AFSCME negotiates are enjoyed by every employee, not just those that pay dues. Things like investments in safety, emergency response protocols and, yes, how to save lives from a burning building are negotiated on behalf of bus drivers, public service aids and more, not just those in police and fire unites that the legislation would except under the belief they are the only ones dealing with public safety. All public-sector workers are on the front line of serving their community.
Maybe the supporters of the legislation believe that all workers pitch in to the union in their workplace. That is not true. Members decide to pay dues for a variety of reasons but not because they are forced to do so. Non-members don’t even pay a fair share for the benefits they get to enjoy.
It is a choice, but this legislation would take that choice from them.
In America, we believe in the will of the majority but respect and protect the rights of the minority. A church doesn’t exist only if they get 50 percent of the town’s residents to attend, or even get 50 percent of their own congregation to attend each week. Official documents are printed in a variety of languages because we don’t force people to speak what most their neighbors speak. And people are elected to office with a majority of those who vote, not a majority of the citizens of that district, because we respect the right for people to not vote if they choose not to.
By requiring a worksite to have a majority of workers signed as members you take away a choice. You limit a right, the right to collectively bargain, that even President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Labor said, “is clearly established by law.”
I invite anyone who supports HB 11 to join me for a day or two out talking to workers about why they do, or do not, join the union. See how unions actually contribute to our state’s prosperity. Understand how this legislation wouldn’t empower workers but actually take away a right that men and women have died to protect for generations – the right to choose for ourselves.
Any country can operate by majority rule, what makes us special is that we respect minority rights. That is why this is not just bad legislation, it is anti-American.
Andy Madtes is the executive director for AFSCME Florida. Representing 15,000 members across the Sunshine State, Madtes has led AFSCME to be one of the state’s fastest growing unions.