This story was written and recorded by Trimmel Gomes of the Public News Service – FL. Click here to visit their page and hear an audio version of the story.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s Republican lawmakers have resurrected, and say they plan to fast-track, legislation from last year to weaken most labor unions in the state.
Rich Templin, legislative and political director of the Florida AFL-CIO, which represents more than 500 labor union locals, says it’s “almost deja vu” as his team prepares to play defense on behalf of workers in the 2018 legislative session.
As an example, he says House Bill 25 would automatically decertify some unions if more than 50 percent of the workers they represent don’t pay dues to the organization.
“That would make it almost impossible for public sector unions to exist, by placing new barriers and hurdles on their ability to represent their workers and collectively bargain on behalf of all workers,” Templin points out.
Similar to last year, Templin predicts the legislation will clear the House, but its future in the Senate is uncertain.
This 60-day lawmaking session starts next Tuesday.
Republican Rep. Scott Plakon says House Bill 25 is about transparency, but Templin says the bill disrupts labor organizations without concern to the industries that the workers represent, including nurses, housekeepers and teachers.
“Legislative leaders, especially in the House, are determined to continue privatizing Florida’s education system, so we’ll be fighting on that,” Templin points out.
Workers on the front lines of some of the most dangerous jobs, such as firefighting and law enforcement, are eligible for what is known as special risk retirement, which includes early retirement.
Templin says another union goal is to get that benefit extended to 911 dispatchers and health care workers in forensic hospitals.
“So, providing care for very dangerous patients who have been committed, either civilly or through the criminal justice system, he explains. “So, we’re looking to give them the opportunity to have special risk retirement. ”
Florida’s once-every-20-year Constitution Revision Commission is also on Templin’s radar, because of a proposal requiring a two-thirds supermajority vote in both legislative chambers before raising taxes or fees or creating new ones.
He argues the state should have the flexibility to fund critical programs as needed.