Senate again snubs bill tightening union strictures
Rep. Scott Plakon was among a group of Republican House members who went without masks during the Florida Legislature's Organization Session at the Florida Capitol Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020.

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Proponents said it would modernize Florida’s union laws. Opponents said it could violate the Constitution.

Legislation requiring public employees to annually reaffirm their membership to employee organizations — a change, among others, opponents decried as “union-busting” — is likely dead again after failing to receive a single hearing in the Senate.

The proposal (HB 1197) by Longwood Republican Rep. Scott Plakon and Neptune Beach Republican Rep. Cord Byrd would have made it compulsory for public employees, including teachers and many other government workers, to sign membership authorization forms every year. Failing to do so would purge them from the organization’s rolls.

The bill would also have removed the option for union members to have their dues automatically deducted from paychecks. Further, unions with fewer than 50% of eligible members in their ranks would have had to recertify with the state as a collective bargaining agent.

Police officers, firefighters, correction officers, probation officers and their unions would have been exempt from the change.

HB 1197 cleared the House 60-47 last week after facing stern opposition from Democrats and labor groups at each of its three committee stops. The bill was then referred to the Senate Committee on Rules, which met Tuesday afternoon.

But as she had done with an earlier iteration of the bill last year, Naples Republican Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, the committee chair, declined to take it up.

With three days left until the end of Session, the outlook is grim for the bill and its Senate companion (SB 1458) by Ocala Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley, which went unheard since both bills were filed in early January.

Proponents of the measure, including Baxley, have characterized it as a “paycheck protection” bill that would “give the employee power over the union” and improve transparency of union operations. The motivation behind the bill, according to Plakon, is to modernize Florida’s laws governing unions and union dues.

Opponents contended the bill represented a “cynical attempt to break up unions.” And because the professions it would omit are all male-dominated fields, some argued it could face legal challenges that it violates the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection” clause.

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Renzo Downey of Florida Politics contributed to this report.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.



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