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Florida House Passes 'Union Busting' Bill


While it’s so far gone nowhere in the state Senate, a proposal critics are dubbing the “union-busting bill” has passed the Florida House.

The so-called “Union-busting” measure is by Rep. Scott Plakon (R-Longwood). He says it’s a rather simple bill.

“First, it’s about transparency, in that we’ll be asking public sector unions to report how many of their members pay dues, along with a report that they file each year, and that’s already being done,” he said. “Second, it’s about democracy as we’ll be asking them that at least half their members are dues paying. Third, it’s about accountability, in that we’ll hold union officials accountable to their members in that they in some cases have to be more responsible to their members, just like we have to do in this room. If they fail to comply with these simple measures towards transparency, democracy, and accountability, they’ll simply have to recertify.”

The measure doesn’t have the backing of Democrats, like Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando). He says it’s a targeted effort to disband certain unions.

“We already know who’s going to be dramatically impacted by this bill,” he said. “It’s FEA [Florida Education Association]—the teacher’s union, AFSCME [American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees]—our government employees, and a few others. But, who cares? Mission accomplished. Isn’t that the point of this bill? Aren’t they the real targets?”

The measure does include a carve out for public safety workers, like law enforcement officers and firefighter unions. But, Les Cantrell says not every public safety worker gets that carve out. He represents the National Association of Government Employees, or NAGE.

“NAGE currently represents in excess of 3,500 emergency medical technicians, or EMTs, and paramedics, and are not excluded from and would be directly impacted by this bill,” he said. “When lives are on the line, we trust our EMTs to do in one of the most stressful and difficult professions in Florida. Having a collective bargaining unit gives them a voice to negotiate for fair wages, and for their work, and to ensure they have the best working conditions they need to do their job.”

The proposal—heavily backed by many Republican lawmakers—also doesn’t have the backing of Brodie Hughes.

He’s with the International Union of Police Associations. While his union is one of the groups carved out of the bill because of his members’ public safety backgrounds, Hughes still opposes the measure.

“This may be an oxymoron, but I’m a Republican union President,” he said. “I support the face that we should have unions, and the Republicans that are pushing this….don’t take this serious that they’re going to create problems that they can’t reverse.”

Meanwhile, the measure is backed by conservative groups, like Americans for Prosperity, and pro-business groups, like Florida Chamber of Commerce.

“The Florida Chamber of Commerce wants every Floridian to have a good wage,” said the Florida Chamber’s Chris Emmanuel. “Our companies are some of the largest employers and some of the smallest employers. What we’re talking about though is in the public sector. These public sector unions that are claiming to represent the entirety of the bargaining unit, but not being in our view appropriately representative of that bargaining unit, and we think it’s bad governance to have such a small percent of people make decisions for such a large portion of the bargaining unit.”

The Florida House passed the measure 65-41.  Lawmakers appear to be fast-tracking the bill, after only a single committee hearing.

Meanwhile, its Senate companion bill—which is scheduled for three committee hearings—has not been heard. A similar bill passed the House last year, but died in the Senate as well.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.