Judge dismisses a constitutional challenge to Florida’s anti-union law

Labor unions
Labor unions. Via nebari / iStock for WMNF News

A Leon County circuit judge has dismissed a constitutional challenge to a new state law that places additional restrictions on public employee unions, though he left open the door for plaintiffs to file a revised lawsuit.

Judge J. Lee Marsh issued a seven-page ruling Tuesday that largely sided with the state Public Employees Relations Commission in the challenge filed by three South Florida municipal unions and three union members.

The lawsuit contended that parts of the law, approved this spring by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican-controlled Legislature, violate collective bargaining and equal-protection rights.

A key issue in the lawsuit was part of the law that requires gauging how many eligible employees are dues-paying union members.

If fewer than 60 percent of eligible employees are members, unions will have to be recertified as bargaining agents.

The lawsuit alleged the change violates collective-bargaining rights.

“The state has no compelling interest in abridging plaintiffs’ collective bargaining rights based on public employees’ dues-paying status or dues payment rates,” the lawsuit said.

Marsh ruled that the plaintiffs had not established legal standing on the issue.

He wrote that the lawsuit “does not allege a sufficient injury, for purposes of standing, to maintain a cause of action for a violation of the right to collective bargaining at this time.”

Marsh, however, gave the plaintiffs 60 days to file a revised lawsuit that could seek to establish standing.

The equal-protection issue stemmed from lawmakers exempting unions representing law-enforcement officers, correctional officers and firefighters from the new restrictions.

But Marsh rejected the equal-protection arguments, writing that “unions who are certified to represent bargaining units of law enforcement officers, correctional officers, correctional probation officers and firefighters are not similarly situated with all other public employee unions.

Thus, the Legislature was free to enact the exception for public safety unions for the recertification provisions” of the law.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Miami Beach Municipal Employees AFSCME Local 1554; North Miami Beach, Florida, City Employees Local 3293, AFSCME; and the Professional Managers and Supervisors Association, which represents workers in Deerfield Beach, Riviera Beach and West Palm Beach.

The Public Employees Relations Commission is responsible for carrying out the law.

©2023 The News Service of Florida

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