Florida lawmakers are nearing the finish line with a pair of bills that would provide paycheck protection and more transparency for prospective union members. If the bills pass, union members, including roughly 145,000 Florida public school teachers, would have more freedom to opt out of union membership and of having their dues collected automatically, whether the individual wanted to join the union or not.
The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee voted 3-2 on Wednesday to approve one measure, SB 1014. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley, would ensure that association with a teachers union is voluntary, requiring a public employee wanting to join a union to submit a signed membership authorization form that includes a specific statutory notice furthering accountability and providing additional documentation of voluntary participation.
A contentious issue among some educators and union leaders, Baxley’s legislation mandates that unions must also revoke the membership if the employee submits a signed request, and may not require a reason for the employee’s decision. The bill additionally requires a public employee to submit a signed dues deduction form before an employer may deduct union dues from an employee’s pay.
Given the broad powers associated with public unions, proponents of the bill say it serves as additional accountability for unions and their members to ensure that association is voluntary, with a signed document serving as a safeguard for any potential problems — including the ability to submit requests for paycheck deductions to an employer for union dues.
Skylar Zander, Florida Director for Americans for Prosperity (AFP), says the measure adds much-needed accountability to unions and puts workers back in the driver’s seat, giving them the final say in how much comes out of their pocket.
“Transparency must be the priority and no employee should ever be forced to join or remain in a union without their clear consent, said Skylar Zander, regarding the approval of SB 1014 by the Senate Committee on Governmental Oversight and Accountability. “This legislation will benefit workers across the state by ensuring that they get to make the ultimate decisions about the money that comes out of their paycheck.”
Those in favor of the legislation also argue that preventing school boards from deducting union dues would act as a form of “paycheck protection.” According to the House analysis report, “Public employers may experience an indeterminate, but likely insignificant, increase in workload and costs associated with the administration of the authorization and revocation of dues deductions.” This is a small price to pay to ensure such largescale protection for employees.
Opponents of the proposal, however, argue that Baxley’s bill includes provisions that take away educators’ freedom. Florida Education Association (FEA), the state’s largest teachers unions, labeled it a “big government bill” that would “make it harder for individuals to exercise their constitutional right to join their union/employee (professional) organization.”
The bill’s next committee stop is in the Senate Judiciary Committee. A similar bill (HB 835) in House, spearheaded by State Representative Cord Byrd, passed in the House Government Operations Committee on March 8 with a 12-6 party line vote. Its next destination is in the Education and Employment Committee.