The Phoenix Flyer

Public union workers would face new regulations under a bill headed to the FL House floor

By: - February 13, 2020 1:24 pm
labor union photo

Union leaders have denounced a vote in the Florida House to divert $1 billion in online sales taxes to benefit their employers Credit: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr

Teachers, fire fighters, and other public workers would face new regulations if they want to remain members of a public-employee union under a bill now ready for a floor vote in the Florida House.

The House State Affairs Committee on Thursday approved the legislation (HB 1) that will require union workers to submit a signed authorization form to their employer, stating that they are a member of the union and want their dues deducted from their paychecks.

But dues can only be deducted after the employer “is able to confirm with the employee, electronically or by other means, that he or she authorized the deduction of dues and uniform assessments,” the bill says.

The authorization to deduct dues would remain in effect up to three years, or upon the adoption of a new collective bargaining agreement, which union members say is often an annual event.

Union members and other opponents of the legislation say the new authorization requirements would replace an existing system under which public workers have to authorize the deduction of the union dues only once, with the ability to leave the union with a 30-day notice to their employer and the union.

The opponents say the bill is another attempt by the Republican-led House to undermine union representation in the state by creating cumbersome regulations for union members.

“There is not any sort of widespread outcry from our constituents, at least not that I’ve heard, calling our offices and complaining that union dues have been taken from paychecks fraudulently or not unauthorized,” said Rep. Adam Hattersley, a Hillsborough County Democrat who voted against the bill. “It’s further bureaucratic red tape and nonsense to make it harder for workers to be represented and protected by their unions.”

Rep. James Grant, the Tampa Republican sponsoring the bill, insisted the proposal is not a “union-busting” measure.

“This is about money, not a membership,” Grant said. “This is simply a question of whether or not somebody’s paycheck can [have union dues] deducted.”

Grant said he is open to looking at ways to make sure the employer confirmation portion of the process is not used to delay someone’s decision to join a public union.

The Florida Phoenix reported on the details of the legislation in this story.

A similar measure (SB 804), sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, has yet to be heard in a Senate committee.

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Lloyd Dunkelberger
Lloyd Dunkelberger

Lloyd Dunkelberger has been covering Florida government for over three decades. He’s reported and edited in Tallahassee for the New York Times Regional Newspapers group, Florida Politics, and the News Service of Florida. He grew up in Jacksonville and Palm Beach County and got his journalism degree at the University of Florida.