Legislation asking public employee union members to reaffirm annually that they want to remain members has advanced to its final House panel.
Critics argue the bill (HB 1197), carried by Longwood Republican Rep. Scott Plakon and Neptune Beach Republican Rep. Cord Byrd, is a “union-busting” measure that has been pushed Session after Session for the last decade. The House State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday voted 9-6, along party lines, to give the measure its second preliminary OK.
Public employees would have to sign a member authorization form every year to maintain union membership. Members also couldn’t opt to have union dues automatically deducted from their salaries.
Additionally, unions with less than 50% of eligible members in the union would have to recertify as the recognized collective bargaining agent, effectively canceling the existing union contract. Union representatives, like Florida AFL-CIO lobbyist Rich Templin, argued the measure would strain workers’ rights.
“If you don’t pay, violating your right to work, you’re gonna lose your right to collective bargaining,” Templin said. “There is no other way to look at this legislation.”
Union members would have to attest the decision to join was voluntary and they know they have the right to not join a union. Unions also couldn’t ask members to state a reason why they filed to leave a union.
The measure specifically carves out police officers, firefighters, correctional officers and probation officers as well as their unions. Plakon told the committee he views those professions differently than other lines of work, calling for more relaxed union requirements.
“Firefighters run one way into a burning building while everybody else runs out. Police officers run into crime scenes when everybody else runs out. Correctional officers … half the people, if (they) got free, would like to kill the officer,” Plakon said.
As they did during the bill’s prior committee stop, Democrats and critics noted the professions carved from the bill are male-dominated.
“This is a very discriminatory bill — very misogynistic bill,” said Florida National Organization for Women lobbyist Barbara DeVane. “The war on women still rages in the Florida Legislature.”
Critics also talked about how the measure disproportionately affects Black and Hispanic employees, who, like women, see larger paycheck boosts by joining unions.
The bill’s opponents, like Templin Gainesville Democratic Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson, contrasted the bill against Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republicans’ recent claims that the pandemic has shown Florida to be the freest state.
“If Florida is the freest state in the nation, why are we placing mandates on certain employees and not others?” Hinson asked.
Discussion around the bill lasted more than an hour and was heated at times. Miami Gardens Democratic Rep. Felicia Robinson called the measure “evil” during her debate, drawing Plakon to call her words “inappropriate” and “beyond the pale.” And one member of the public, who was identified as Luis Cano, had a warning for House members.
“Anybody that votes yes on this, don’t look in the mirror tomorrow,” he said. “You won’t like what you see.”
The bill next heads to the House State Affairs Committee. If approved, the measure would take effect July 1.
On the Senate side, Ocala Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley‘s bill (SB 1458) has yet to be scheduled for a committee hearing. With the 60-day Legislative Session approaching its midpoint, time is running out for senators to consider the measure.