Florida Takes A Step Down Scott Walker's Hateful Path
Reminiscent of the efforts by state legislatures in Wisconsin and Ohio to eliminate collective bargaining rights of public workers, legislation that impedes the functionality of unions has sprung up in-- no surprise here-- the Sunshine State. The controversial bill, SB 830, will no longer allow a union member in Florida to pay dues directly through his or her salary, a restriction that infuriates union supporters because it creates an obstacle to supporting the union. As Florida Republicans attempt to befuddle unions, public workers across the state are standing up to defend what they believe is a blatant infringement upon their rights. Below is what a member from the SEIU said on the senate floor last week.
“As a lifelong Republican, I do not see what rationale is used to support this bill. Republicans believe in limited government, individual freedom, strong families and efficiency. This bill goes against those very principles.
"First, deducting from public worker’s salaries does not pose any cost to the state, so the argument that taxpayer dollars are being used to fund unions is false. You have a right to your own opinions, but not your own facts. And even if there were transactional costs associated with the deductions, the unions have already offered to cover them on numerous occasions.
"Second, it is our salary that is being deducted, and this body has no problem with deductions that go toward other expenses, such as paying for 401k’s. We work the hours and we earn the wages. If we want the dues for labor unions to be taken directly from our salaries, then we should have the right to do so. This legislature is trying to dictate how we use our salaries. Why? When a worker wants to set up a mutual fund or direct deposit account, there is no law that restricts the direct funding from a salary. What makes labor unions any different? This bill attempts to single out labor unions, and a law put on the books just to eliminate the specific practice of funding unions directly through salaries is unjust, and does not serve the values that our country or party believes in.
"This bill impedes our ability to support the union, which we see as vital to protecting our rights as workers. Personally, I am scared that if this bill were to be passed, it would undermine all I have fought for to defend workers’ rights. At Oak Hill Hospital, it is my job to ensure our patients get the food and nutrients they need. While our hospital does not have a contract yet, I have seen the positive difference the union makes in people’s lives by sitting at bargaining tables with our management leaders. Unions don’t only fight for better wages for all workers, they also help train us and improve the quality of care we provide our patients. Now, by creating an obstacle for its members to pay dues, this bill is threatening the life support of the union. I want this legislature to realize that while this law may not affect me now since I belong to a private union, it undermines the ability of key sectors of our work force to unionize, and that in turn affects all of us.
"By supporting this bill, this legislature is moving in the direction of weakening organizations that strengthen our families and improve the care we provide our patients. I urge you to vote no on SB 830.”
Immediately after the testimony the Senate committee approved the union-busting bill in an 11-9 vote, with 3 Republicans voting with the Democrats against the legislation. “This has nothing to do with jobs or the economy,” said Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston. “Silencing the voices of thousands of union members is not what my constituents sent me up here to do.”
Whether you support unions or not, the intentions of the bill are confusing; SB 830 allows for the funding of mutual funds and 401k’s directly through salaries, but it restricts the same action for union dues. What is even more intriguing is that Republicans, who are usually opposed to government intervention in the workplace, are promoting this bill. If Florida legislature is truly out to get the unions-- and in this case they're marching to a tune being played by the Chamber of Commerce, which is paying for TV ads supporting passage-- then the passing of this bill will most likely be the first step in a long line of legislation aimed at decapitating unions. The bill, which already passed the right-wing dominated House on March 25, creates a chilling effect on workers participating in unions, and if passed, it will only be a matter of time before more harmful legislation is passed. Jeanne’s (the speaker) words did curb the vote of three notable Republicans in Senator Flores, Fasano, and Altman, so it will be interesting to see if their influence-- plus the voices of policemen, foremen, teachers and other civil servants-- will be enough to suffocate SB 830. How many Republican legislators are starting to worry that Rick Scott's cooties are going to rub off on them and end their political careers?
Let's give Alan Grayson, a steadfast tribune for working families, the last word on this: "The next step will be direct deposit of all public employee paychecks into Rick Scott’s checking account."