TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Thursday morning saw tense back-and-forths in the Committee on Fiscal Policy, as Florida public sector workers made their views on a union bill extensively clear.
SB 256 – proposed by Sen. Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill) – requires public sector unions, like teacher and healthcare worker unions, to maintain at least 60 percent membership to continue to exist – up from the currently mandated 50 percent. The bill exempts police officer, firefighter and corrections officer unions.
The legislation would also remove the automatic deduction from members’ paychecks for union dues, requiring them to deposit their payment in person to union leaders.
“I think this is a unique opportunity to strengthen the unions,” Sen. Ingoglia explained. “By requiring 60 percent you have a higher threshold of people involved. If you’re getting rid of payroll deduction, you’re forcing a face-to-face conversation with employees and their union representatives.”
“LESS IMPORTANT THAN OTHERS”
Despite Sen. Ingoglia’s assertion that the legislation would foster stronger connections within unions, his bill faced massive backlash from doctors, teachers, and blue-collar workers across the political spectrum.
Sen. Ingoglia clarified his exemption of cops, firefighters, and correctional officer unions following public criticism, stating: “Police, fire, and corrections are putting their lives on the line everyday. I would have a hard time telling a law enforcement officer who worked an overnight shift that she or he would have to not get any sleep, and then meet their union representative at 11 am to give them a check.”
However, some public sector workers did not approve of this explanation, as one electrician said, “Linemen run into danger every day, face long hours on second and third shift, have to go on emergency call-outs, and die and are injured at much higher rates than police.”
Sen. Geraldine Thomspon (D-Orlando) summed up the public response, saying “this bill communicates that some of you are less important than others.”
“SUPPORTED BY CONSERVATIVE THINK TANKS”
Sen. Shevrin Jones (D-Miami) rounded out the opposition, stating: “We call ourselves the free state of Florida, but where is the freedom in this?” Referencing the removal of automatic paycheck deductions, Jones stated: “Who asked for this? The people sure didn’t. The individuals who support this are conservative think tanks.”
Sen. Ingoglia addressed the argument that his bill would decertify unions. “There are some unions, not all, that are probably keeping teachers from entering the teaching profession because some of the unions are aggressive. There is nothing in this bill preventing an employee from joining a union!”
The bill passed the Committee on Fiscal Policy and now advances to the Senate floor. SB 256 is poised to become law, with its companion bill HB 1445 moving simultaneously through the House.