The House approved legislation Thursday that would require the decertification of any public employee union unless at least 50 percent of the eligible workers in a unit pay dues.
HB 11 passed on a vote of 75-41, with many Democrats calling it union busting.
“It amazes me that we constantly come up with bills that are disguised, but that actually weaken the unions,” Broward Democrat Richard Stark said.
“In this day and age, we forget how important unions were in keeping America great. They had a lot to do with the rise of the middle class in this country,” he said. “And we need to respect unions and stop trying to come in with back-door ways to weaken them.”
Sponsor Scott Plakon insisted the point was accountability.
“If you believe, like I do, that public sector unions should have to operate in a more transparent fashion, and under time-honored, Democratic, majority-rule principles, where the union has to be more responsive to its members, and the individuals in the bargaining unit are empowered and respected by this process even more, you should vote ‘Yes.’ If not, you should vote ‘No.’ ”
Florida’s right-to-work law encourages workers to stint on union participation, Tallahassee Democrat Loranne Ausley said.
“The union negotiates the contracts, handles the grievances, but they don’t have to pay dues. Now under this bill we’re going to penalize unions for lack of due-paying members,” Ausley said.
“This bill targets teachers, state and local government employees, nurses, bus drivers, and many others who serve us and care for us every day. And we’re targeting them because these organizations make political decisions that some people don’t like,” she added.
Matt Willhite, a fire captain and 22-year union member from Wellington, argued the bill would massively disrupt organized labor. His objections included the exemption for public-safety unions.
Even with low participation rates, he said, unions are “still representing good, hard-working people who are the foundation of this state and are working to benefit their families and the labor organizations that they represent,” he said.
“It’s more bullying,” Democratic leader Janet Cruz said. “Stop bullying teachers. Stop bullying teachers’ right to organize. Stop bullying teachers’ voices.”