Florida senators level attack on teachers unions

By and

  • Photo via Orange County Classroom Teachers Association/Facebook

After teachers and union officials lined up to oppose the bill, a Senate committee Wednesday approved a proposal that would place a series of new restrictions on education unions.

The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee voted 3-2 to approve the measure (SB 1014), sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala. The bill, in part, would prevent school boards from deducting union dues from teacher paychecks. That change in longstanding practice would lead to teachers having to directly pay dues to their unions.

“This is basically what is known as paycheck protection,” Baxley said.

But educators and union leaders from across the state testified against the bill, with some pointing to the role that teachers have played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rich Templin, a lobbyist for the Florida AFL-CIO, called the bill “nothing but an attack on people we have been calling heroes for a year.” The bill would not apply to other types of public unions, such as unions that represent law-enforcement officers, firefighters and rank-and-file state workers. The measure was supported by three Republican senators who were present for the meeting and was opposed by two Democrats.

The bill is of a piece with similar attacks on public unions that have virtually hollowed out union organizing in the United States. Conservatives on the Supreme Court reached a related verdict in 2018, in the case Janus v. AFSCME. That decision limited the ability of public unions to collect fees, saying that they could not compel fees from people who benefited from their organizing efforts but did not consider themselves part of the union.

Florida's conservative legislators have spent the last year pushing a further bill that would require unions to get authorization from members annually, stating that they wish to continue paying dues. Taken together, it's a concerted effort against the strength of Florida's public unions, hoping to depress membership to a level that collective bargaining and pressure from labor becomes impossible.

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