Florida lawmakers consider changes to public-sector union membership and dues processes

Florida lawmakers are considering legislation (H0001) that would, if enacted, change how public-sector employees join, resign from, and pay membership dues to unions.

What does the bill propose? The bill would make the following changes:

  • Requires employees who wish to join a union to sign a membership authorization form. The form must include an acknowledgment that Florida is a right-to-work state and a statement union membership is not a condition of employment.
  • Requires unions to revoke an employee’s membership upon his or her written request. Unions cannot ask for a reason if an employee chooses to resign.
  • Requires a signed authorization to deduct dues from an employee’s salary. Authorizations must be renewed annually.

What comes next? On Jan. 22, the House Oversight, Transparency, and Public Management subcommittee voted 9-5 to approve the bill, which now advances to the House State Affairs Committee. All Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Rene Plasencia, voted against it. A similar bill, SB804, has been introduced in the state Senate, where it is awaiting a committee hearing.

What are the reactions?

  • At a hearing before the House Oversight, Transparency, and Public Management subcommittee on Jan. 22, Rep. James Grant (R), the bill’s sponsor, said, “It is patently offensive for a labor union to be taking direct deposits and holding a member of that union effectively hostage until that person tells them what party they’re affiliated with. These are labor unions, not political organizations.”
  • Rep. Javier Fernandez, who opposes the bill, said, “This bill is not happening in a vacuum. It’s not just happening in Florida. This is part of a concerted effort, a national effort by one organization or handful of organizations advancing an agenda to basically try to erode union membership. They do that by erecting barriers to membership under the guise of worker protection.”
  • Vincent Vernuccio, a senior fellow at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said, “This bill simply protects public employees in Florida. It confirms that they want to be members of the union and they want to pay the union. It ensures that public employers have the necessary information to deduct dues from their paychecks.”
  • Ron Meyer, an attorney for the Florida Education Association, said, “This bill isn’t the result of problems in Florida. This is a cookie-cutter piece of legislation sponsored by the Mackinac Institute, a well-known, anti-union operation out of Michigan that has a distaste for unions, public-sector unions. My point is, this is a problem that doesn’t exist, and this bill is just a bad idea.”

Bureau of Labor Statistics releases annual union membership estimates

On Jan. 22, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its annual estimates of union membership in the United States. The full press release and data set can be accessed here, but here are the key takeaways:

  • The BLS estimates that 33.6 percent of public-sector workers nationwide were union members in 2019, roughly five times the membership rate in the private sector (6.2 percent).
    • In 2018, public-sector union membership was estimated at 33.9 percent, a year-over-year decline of 0.3 percentage points.
  • Local government workers were unionized at an estimated rate of 39.4 percent in 2019, down from 40.3 percent in 2018.
  • State workers were unionized at a rate of 29.4 percent in 2019, up from 28.6 percent in 2018.
  • Federal workers were unionized at a rate of 25.6 percent in 2019, down from 26.4 percent in 2018.

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 70 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

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Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

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Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

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Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • Colorado HB1169: This bill would bar employers from requiring union membership or payment of union dues as a condition of employment.
    • Introduced and referred to House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee Jan. 28.
  • Hawaii SB2770: This bill would require public employers to reimburse unions for costs associated with collective bargaining, contract administration, etc.
    • Referred to Senate Labor, Culture, and Arts Committee and Judiciary Committee Jan. 27.
  • Maine LD1960: This bill would make communications between municipal/state workers and their unions confidential in proceedings before the Maine Labor Relations Board.
    • Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled Jan. 29.
  • Maryland HB214: This bill would grant collective bargaining rights to graduate assistants in the University of Maryland system, Morgan State University, and St. Mary’s College.
    • House Appropriations Committee hearing scheduled Jan. 28.
  • Maryland SB388: This bill would grant collective bargaining rights to certain employees of the circuit courts and the District Court of Maryland.
    • Introduced Jan. 27. Senate Finance Committee hearing Jan. 29.
  • New Hampshire HB1290: This bill would require the state public employee labor relations board to permit employees to vote by mail in certification elections.
    • House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee executive session scheduled Jan. 29.
  • New Hampshire HB1322: This bill would prohibit university system funds from being used to oppose the formation of unions.
    • House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee hearing scheduled Jan. 29.
  • New Hampshire SB651: This bill would prohibit collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a union.
    • Senate Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled Jan. 30.
  • New Mexico SB110: This bill would make various amendments to the state’s public-sector labor relations laws.
    • Senate Public Affairs Committee hearing scheduled Jan. 31.
  • Virginia HB327: This bill would allow state and local government employers to recognize any union as the bargaining agent of any public employees.
    • House Labor and Commerce Committee hearing scheduled Jan. 28.
  • Virginia HB582: This bill would repeal the existing prohibition against collective bargaining by public employees.
    • Amended version reported out of House Appropriations Committee Jan. 29.
  • Washington HB1333: This bill would alter the definition of a public employee under the state’s public employee’s collective bargaining law.
    • Referred to House Rules Committee Jan. 28.
  • Washington HB2017: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for administrative law judges.
    • House Appropriations Committee executive session scheduled Jan. 30.