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Bill targeting public-employee unions advances toward final House floor vote

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A proposal that could decertify public employee union chapters across Florida moved closer to a final House vote Wednesday, as its sponsor denied it was “union busting.”

Sponsor Scott Plakon, a Republican business owner from Longwood, argued his bill was about transparency and democratic principles.

“This empowers the majority who may not be paying dues,” he said.

“Should a very small minority be able to impose their will on people who don’t want to be a part of it?” he wondered aloud at one point in the debate.

HB 11 would require the decertification of any public employee union unless at least 50 percent of the eligible workers in a unit pay dues.

Plakon has argued that he knows of one workplace where only 3 percent of the eligible workers are unionized.

Florida is a right-to-work state, meaning that workers are not obliged to join a union. About 10 percent of state employees affiliate with organized labor.

There’s an exemption for firefighters’ police, and corrections officers’ unions. That’s to avoid “labor unrest” among public safety workers, Plakon said.

Democrats repeatedly tried to get Plakon to acknowledge his target was teachers unions. He denied it repeatedly.

“I’ve never said that. Impugning those motives on why I’m doing the bill is just not correct — that’s not what’s in my heart or in my mind,”

Democrat John Cortes, a retired corrections officer from Kissimmee, was blunt.

“Is this some kind of form of union busting?” he asked.

“That, again, would go to the intentions of me filing the bill,” Plakon said — frowned upon by House rules.

“But to answer your question: No,” he said.

The bill would make unions more responsive to members, Plakon said.

“I’ve been told, actually, there have been some recruitment drives around the state in anticipating this bill. I’ve heard about one that raised the membership 3 percent in one day,” he said.

“Now if you’re sitting at 12 percent in your bargaining unit, you’re going to have a lot of work to do,” Plakon said.

“The bill weakens unions, which are already weak in this state,” Broward Democrat Richard Stark said.

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

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