Anti-union bill dies in the Florida Senate

Florida House of Representatives
Members of the Florida House of Representatives work during a legislative session at the Florida State Capitol, Monday, March 7, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Florida’s House Bill 1197 officially died in the state Senate this week, with the conclusion of the state’s 2022 legislative session. The bill, sponsored by Representative Scott Plakon (R-Longwood), would have created a logistical nightmare for most of Florida’s public sector unions. Several lawmakers even described it as an attempt as “union-busting.”

Among other changes, the bill would have barred automatic paycheck deductions for dues. It would also have required public-sector unions with a membership at less than 50% to petition the state Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) for recertification.

Notably, the bill would have exempted unions representing police officers, firefighters, and corrections staff. Earlier this month, union leaders here in Tampa Bay held a press conference to speak out against the bill. After landing a favorable 60-47 vote in the Florida House, critics had worried the bill would be fast-tracked through the state Senate in the last week of Florida’s legislative session.

“Our public workers, our teachers, our support professionals have been the heroes of this pandemic,” said Rob Kriete, president of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association (HCTA). “They’ve been doing the hard work. They’ve been meeting the needs of our students in our communities, and we ask [lawmakers] to continue to respect their constitutional rights.”

Rich Templin, who serves as director of politics and public policy for the Florida AFL-CIO, told WMNF that the bill would have created “chaos” for Florida’s public workers. “It would have increased the uncertainty in their lives,” said Templin. “It would have made it very difficult for them to either join — or, if they’re already members, remain in their union.”

Bipartisan opposition, a nail in the coffin

Similar legislation to undermine Florida unions has been filed in past sessions. And, this year, the bill’s companion in the Senate (SB 1458) gained zero traction, quietly perishing without being heard by a single Senate committee.

According to Templin, the unpopularity of the legislation was bipartisan. Neither Democratic nor Republican Senators, he said, were willing to give the blatantly anti-union legislation a fighting chance. “The bottom line is that Republicans, Democrats, independents are all represented by our movement. We have years of relationships working to solve problems in a bipartisan way.”

He added that the bill’s only real supporters “were private, big business associations like the Chamber of Commerce” and out-of-state think-tanks like Americans for Prosperity and the Freedom Foundation, which vows to “fight government union bosses” and “[help] workers leave their union.”

A bad bill for all Floridians

While less than 6% of Florida workers are union members, Templin said legislation that weakens Florida’s public sector unions is bad for everybody — not just those with a union card.

“All workers out there that are not in a union, we see them as future union members. And all workers out there who might be involved with the union, but feel like it’s not for them anymore — the state and the Constitution is on their side.”

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