Unions rally against Scott, GOP Legislature, againby John Kennedy | March 29th, 2011
About 1,000 protesters rallied Tuesday across the street from the state Capitol, blasting Gov. Rick Scott and Republican lawmakers for advancing an array of bills condemned as union-busting.
Many of those crowding the grounds of the Leon County Courthouse wore green shirts bearing the motto, “Let’s Pull Together.” The shirts also were emblazoned with the logo for AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.”
“Sure, I’m worried about what’s going on,” said Shelton Locklear, 64, a carpenter, and 31-year employee of the Polk County School Board. “They’re making us pay for pensions, that’s a pay cut for us.”
Locklear, who said he hadn’t drawn an across-the-board pay raise in three years, acknowledged Scott and legislative leaders looked certain to make the pension changes. But he said he hoped a show of political force by unions might blunt the push.
Nearby, a voter registration table was set up. And Florida AFL-CIO President Mike Williams drew a stark contrast between the crowd gathered across the street from the Capitol, and the lawmakers inside the 22-story structure.
“It’s all about taking care of the corporate executives who bankrolled the companies that put our legislators into office,” Williams told those gathered. “There’s one voice, one group that stands in the way of the right-wing ideology — it’s organized labor.”
Arthur Brown, a vice-president with the Miami-Dade Transit Union, led an entourage of about 100 rail-workers from South Florida to Tallahassee for Tuesday’s rall, which was to be followed by hall-walking and lobbying lawmakers.
Brown, too, acknowledged that the Legislature looked intent on imposing pension payments, barring governments from collecting union dues, and weakening the authority of the state teachers’ union with the merit pay bill Scott signed into law last week.
“But we still think we can stop this train,” Brown said.
For his part, Scott didn’t get near the rally. He toured the Capitol courtyard shortly after midday visiting Florida National Guard soldiers and a display of military hardware.
Asked if he had anything to say to the crowd across the street, Scott stayed on message.
“Our taxpayers, they’re who are paying for our state workers, very few of them have a pension,” Scott said. ”Most of them, if they have a retirement plan, it’s a plan that they probably put up all the money for.
“ We’ve got to be fair to our state workers. We’ve got to make sure we do the best we can to pay them fairly. But we’ve got to treat our taxpayers fairly, also,” he added.