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Florida Republicans take aim at teachers’ unions

Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 4:39 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAP NEWS/WCJB) - Florida Republicans are taking aim at public sector labor unions, with two bills passed through a House committee Monday morning.

One specifically targets teachers unions.

It would prohibit teachers from opting to have their union dues taken directly out of their pay check.

House sponsor Cord Byrd said it’s about getting government out of the way.

“We live in a digital age. It’s much simpler now for someone who derives a benefit from a service, that they pay that service directly,” said Byrd.

But in the bill’s first committee hearing, the state’s largest teachers union said it would do just the opposite.

“This is a bill putting government in between an individual’s right to join a union. Stop interfering in the rights of employees to direct how they get their paycheck and what they do with their paycheck,” said Stephanie Kunkel with the Florida Education Association.

The teachers union bill would also expand a requirement passed last year that unions representing K-12 employees maintain at least 50 percent membership to keep their certification.

Under the bill, unions representing university and college employees would also have to meet the 50 percent threshold.

Democrats like Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith questioned the timing of the legislation, pointing to teachers’ front-line role through the pandemic.

“It’s important for us to just call a spade a spade. These are union busting bills targeting our teachers who have been our heroes through this pandemic, who really have sacrificed so much,” said Smith.

We asked Byrd why his bill singles out teachers and leaves out other public sector employees like police, firefighters and state workers.

“That’s something that could be considered moving forward, but once again, the focus of the bill is in the education sector and I wanted to keep mine narrow, knowing that others had bills dealing with unions more broadly,” said Byrd.

One of those other union bills was also approved in the same meeting.

It would require all public sector employees to reauthorize their membership every three years or any time their contract is renegotiated.

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