Florida House of Representatives advances public-sector labor bill

On March 4, the Florida House of Representatives passed legislation that would alter the process by which public-sector workers join, resign from, and pay dues to unions.

What does the bill propose? HB1 would amend Florida’s public-sector labor laws as follows:

  • Requires employees joining unions to sign membership cards. These membership cards must include the following statements:
    • Florida is a right-to-work state.
    • Union membership is not required as a condition of employment.
    • Union membership and automatic payroll deductions for union dues are voluntary.
    • An employee cannot be discriminated against for refusing to join or pay fees to a union.
  • Requires unions to revoke an employee’s membership upon the employee’s written request (unions cannot ask an employee why he or she is resigning).
  • Requires written authorization for automatic payroll deductions for union dues.
  • Provides that dues deduction authorizations are in force, unless revoked by the employee, for three years or until the ratification of a new collective bargaining agreement, whichever comes first.
  • Requires employers to verify dues deduction authorizations.

How did the House vote, and what comes next? The House voted 63-52 in favor of the legislation. Republicans cast all 63 yes votes. Forty-four Democrats and eight Republicans voted against the bill. Five members did not vote.

The bill now goes to the Florida State Senate, where it has been assigned to the Governmental Oversight and Accountability, Community Affairs, and Rules committees. A companion bill (SB804) was introduced in the Senate on Jan. 14 and referred to the Governmental Oversight and Accountability, Community Affairs, and Rules committees.

What are the reactions?

  • Support
    • Rep. James Grant (R), the bill’s sponsor, said, “This is about money, not a membership. This is simply a question of whether or not somebody’s paycheck can [have union dues] deducted.”
    • Rep. Josie Tomkow (R), who voted in favor of the bill, said, “HB 1 empowers workers to make decisions about their union membership. Should they want to join the union or leave the union, that decision must be protected and their rights as workers defended.”
    • 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.”
  • Opposition
    • Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D) voted against the legislation, saying, “One of the concerns that I have is potential intimidation. Could you imagine to have to go to your employer, and have to have your employer personally verify that you’ve signed an authorization for a deduction of dues – may create an environment where that type of intimidation can occur?”
    • Rep. Tina Polsky (D) also voted against the bill, saying, “There were teachers, firefighters, policemen, all the people we say we care so much about, all saying that this bill was rather insulting to them. Because they know how to revoke their membership. They know how to sign up for membership and dues.”
    • Stephanie Yocum, president of the Polk Education Association, said, “I describe it as a poor solution to a nonexistent problem because Florida is already a ‘right-to-work’ state, which means that people don’t have to join their union. We’re not beating people over the head to join, and people definitely know how to revoke their membership if they want to.”

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 91 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.

  • Florida H0001: This bill would require employees who wish to join a union to sign a membership authorization form. It would require unions to revoke an employee’s membership upon his or her written request. It would also require a signed authorization to deduct dues from an employee’s salary.
    • House approved March 4; transmitted to Senate and referred to Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability, Community Affairs, and Rules committees March 5.
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Maryland HB1134: This bill would grant collective bargaining rights to certain employees of the circuit courts and the District Court of Maryland.
    • House Appropriations Committee hearing scheduled March 3.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • New Hampshire SB448: This bill would require the state public employee labor relations board to certify a union as a bargaining unit’s exclusive representative if that union receives a “majority written authorization.”
    • Senate Commerce Committee hearing scheduled March 3.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Virginia HB582: This bill would repeal the existing prohibition against collective bargaining by public employees.
    • Senate approved substitute bill March 5.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Virginia SB939: This bill would permit local governments to recognize unions as bargaining agents for public-sector workers.
    • House requested conference committee March 3; Senate accepted request March 5.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Washington HB2017: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for administrative law judges.
    • Senate approved March 4.
    • Democratic sponsorship.