Florida: Employers Should Decide Who Joins a Union
The bill's sponsor equated opting out of a union to coming forward with a domestic violence complaint
Florida may be a Right to Work state, but they do have some union members. However, Republicans in the statehouse want to make it even harder for those members to stay in their unions and pay their dues.
A bill, which recently passed the House by a vote of 63-52, would require public employees who want to join a union to sign a membership authorization form and for employers to verify the employee’s intent before any union dues can be collected for membership purposes. It would also require employees to reauthorize their membership with the union annually and require the union to terminate membership for a member upon request instead of during a pre-determined opt-out period.
The bill is part of a new wave of attacks on organized labor. Recently Republicans in Alaska sued public employee unions to institute a similar standard. According to the Florida AFL-CIO, the push is being funded by an out-of-state billionaire-backed think tank. The Florida bill was introduced by Rep. James Grant, a virulently anti-union Republican. In the hearing on the bill, Grant said it was needed because opting out of a union was like reporting domestic violence, insinuating that there would be physical retribution from the union if an employee decided to leave. His statement can be seen here at the 1:42:10 mark.
Union members and leaders recently spoke at hearings on the bill and highlighted some of the worst parts. Perhaps the biggest point of anger for union members is that dues deduction and union membership does not begin when an employee signs their authorization form, but rather when the employer “confirms with the employee, electronically or by other means, that he or she authorized the deduction of dues and uniform assessments.” Not only does this give the boss time to stall potentially leaving large gaps in a workforce's membership, but it also allows the boss to pressure union members into opting out of the union.
“Our public sector workers will have an indeterminate period of confusion and fear as they wait for their employer to verify their membership,” said the Florida AFL-CIO in a statement. “There is no time frame or penalty for employers in the bill. Public sector workers understand their Right to Work. This language is intended to tip the scales against membership.”
The bill would not only include teachers and state workers, but it would also include public safety officers like police and fire.
What this requires is an extra level of burden which would infringe upon us,” said UFF President Karen Morian. UFF represents faculty at the state colleges and universities. “We would have to re-recruit the people into our union every single year and that is a huge administrative task, which I think is part of the purpose of the bill. Teachers are already buried in paperwork now you are adding an extra layer just to keep their bargaining rights.”
With a week left in the legislative session, the bill must now pass the State Senate. Thankfully the bill is not yet slated for a hearing, let alone a vote. However, union members aren’t getting caught sleeping and were seen lining the halls of the capitol telling legislators “Don’t kill us with red tape.”