The proposal by Longwood Republican Scott Plakon (HB 25) has been introduced for several years now without success in the Legislature. After passing the House in 2017, the bill died in the Senate. It was on “special order” Wednesday in the House, meaning that other members can ask questions of the sponsor.
The legislation would decertify public unions in the workplace if voluntary dues-paying membership falls below fifty percent. The unions would have to report to the state annually how many employees are eligible for representation by the union and then how many of them do and don’t pay annual dues.
Florida is a “right to work ” state, meaning that employees are not legally compelled to pay union dues.
“Why would we create another hurdle to suppress union member and the rights of workers to have a voice in their workplace unless the real goal here is to eliminate the labor movement in Florida as a whole,” asked David Fernandez, communications director for the Florida AFL-CIO.
Plakon’s bill exempts police, firefighter and correctional unions, but that doesn’t mean those unions are OK with it.
“We see this as an attack on unions, and we want to stand strong with our brothers and sisters with the unions who are affected by this,” said Brodie Hughes with the Daytona-area International Union of Police Associations. “The minute you eliminate this type of stuff, you are going to have to open it up to random abuse of employees.”
Les Cantrell is with the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE), which represents 3,500 Emergency Medical Technicians and paramedics who would be impacted by the bill.
“When lives are on the line, we trust out EMT’s to do the best and one of the most stressful and difficult professions in Florida,” said Cantrell. “Having a collective bargaining agreement gives them a voice to negotiate for fair wages for their work and to ensure that they have the best working conditions to do their jobs.”
The Florida Senate killed the bill last year, but one of the union’s most significant friends in the GOP, Jack Latvala, is no longer in the Senate, having resigned last month after a special master found probable cause that he violated Senate misconduct rules and sexually harassed a legislative aide.
The bill has three stops in the Senate and Fernandez hopes the chamber can reproduce its opposition to the bill, as it did last year.
“This bill is unnecessary,” he said. “It has too many holes to even count, too many questions that have remained unanswered.”
Updated 5 p.m. — House Democrats peppered Plakon with questions on the bill, such as John Cortes of Kissimmee, a retired corrections officer, asking why the bill couldn’t just “make the unions more transparent.”
Plakon said that’s what the bill is all about: “It will show, for the first time, whether (a) union is at 5 percent or 95 percent bargaining strength.”
When asked whether the bill was a union buster, Plakon plainly answered: “No.”