House OK’s barring union deductionsby John Kennedy | March 25th, 2011
Following the latest firefight between Democrats and Republicans, the GOP-dominated House OK’d legislation Friday that would bar state and local governments from collecting payroll deductions for union dues.
Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, in line to become House speaker in three years, if Republicans hold the majority, sponsored the measure (CS/HB 1021), which he said would keep the state out of “partisan politics.”
“There are other ways for unions to collect their dues that don’t involve state resources,” Dorworth said. On the Senate side, a former Florida Republican Party, Sen. John Thrasher, is sponsoring the measure.
The House approved the measure in a mostly party-line, 73-40 vote. The Senate bill (CS/SB 830) has at least one more committee stop before facing a full vote.
“Do not put lipstick on this elephant,” said Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, adding the measure, “is about silencing the voices of working men and women.”
The measure also allows public employee union members to demand a refund of dollars spent on any union political activity with which they didn’t agree.
Thrasher, who last year guided the state’s GOP to campaign victories that tightened the party’s grip on power in Florida, has said the measure is designed to “empower unions” by making them collect their dues rather than the state. Automatic payroll deductions for union dues has been a common practice by state and local governments, including school boards, for decades.
Union representatives have said it is part of a national effort aimed at scuttling the political influence of teachers, police, firefighters and public employees’ organizations, which campaigned for Democrats last fall and are leading demonstrations against Republican policies this spring.
Unions, including the Florida Police Benevolent Association and Florida Education Association, poured millions of dollars into Democratic campaigns last fall.
Unlike Wisconsin and Ohio, where state capitals have been engulfed in opposition to efforts aimed at ending collective bargaining, union membership in Florida is voluntary.
The Florida Constitution shields workers from being forced to join a union. The constitution, though, also guarantees workers’ right to collective bargaining, a provision Republican Gov. Rick Scott last month said he would like to see repealed.