Month: March 2011

Union dues bill headed for House floor

Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, on Monday sold his bill that would prohibit payroll deduction of union dues for public workers and require annual approval to use dues for political purposes as one that will “empower” union members. That claim prompted derision from union leaders and Democrats, but the bill was approved by the Republican-heavy House Appropriations committee. It now heads to the House floor. Sen. John Thrasher, R-Jacksonville, is sponsoring similar legislation in the Senate.

Dorworth said he doesn’t believe governments should be in the business of handling payroll deductions for union dues. That can be taken care of by private vendors, he said. And the written approval for political expenditures, he said, gives individual union members control over how their money is spent.

Democrats criticized the move as politically motivated and a waste of time.

“How many jobs is it going to create? How is it going to reduce our deficit? What is the public good that’s going to be served by this bill?” asked Franklin Sands, a Democrat from Weston who earned applause for calling Dorworth’s proposal a “union busting” bill.

House Democratic leaders Ron Saunders from Key West pledged to make a stink about the politics at play when the bill comes up for debate on the House floor. “Why are we here on a bill that is supposedly to protect union members and not a single union member has spoken in support of it?” Saunders said. “I don’t see the reason for this bill.”

Indeed, as has happened as the proposal has been discussed in recent weeks, several union members expressed outrage and disgust for the measure.

“I don’t know who everyone thinks the union is. The union is the membership. They vote to take positions. They vote to spend their money on things. And if they don’t want to, they opt out of it,” said Lisa Henning, legislative director for the state Fraternal Order of Police. The bill, she said, “is a true blue attempt at shutting us up.”

Others called attention to the bill’s staff analysis, which concluded it would be more difficult for unions to collect dues.


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Florida AFL-CIO

Legislative Brief

A snapshot view of the Florida Legislature’s activities for the week of:

3/07/11 – 3/11/11

Week 1 – A really, really tough week / Florida AFL-CIO

Worker Gag Bill – The Florida Legislature has jumped on the national bandwagon in pushing forward with legislation designed to eliminate the voice of our public employee unions.

SB 830 by Sen. Thrasher and HB HB 1021 by Reps. Dorworth and Gaetz(M) would make the following changes to state law regarding how public employee unions operate.

· Dues Deductions – Florida Statute 447.303 currently grants public sector unions the right to have “dues and uniform assessments deducted and collected by the employer from the salaries of those employees who authorize the deduction.” Employees may rescind that deduction at any time through written request to both the employer and Union. These bills make it illegal for any public sector employer to deduct union dues or any other assessments.

· Political Deductions – These bills make it illegal for any employer to deduct COPE funds for “the purpose of political activity, including contributions to a candidate, political party, political committee, committee of continuous existence, electioneering communications organizations, or organizations exempt from taxation under s. 501(c) (4) or s. 527 of the Internal Revenue Code.” Unions will no longer be able to participate in politics through COPE deductions or any other type of voluntary assessment processed by employers.

· Political Participation – These bills create new and onerous requirements for any public employee union to use any money generated by dues for political purposes. Unions will have to get written authorization each year from the membership to use general funds for donations or expenditures for candidates, political committees or issue advocacy. There must also be a detailed account of all of these types of expenditures to the members and if any aspect of all this paperwork is found to be in error, refunds must be processed and sent to the membership.

SB 830 was up in the Senate Community Affairs Committee on Monday afternoon. Dozens of union members, leaders and students gathered outside the committee room, mouths taped shut, in silent protest of this bill that would gag workers across the state of Florida. The goal was to show the media what Florida politics would look like under a regime where the big business lobby was the only game in town. The protest was a great success and garnered good coverage in the media. (For video visit our YouTube site). The committee meeting ended before discussion could begin. It will be heard on Monday, March 14th at 10:15 am. HB 1021 was discussed in the House State Affairs Committee on Thursday, intentionally scheduled during a critical hearing on the state pension system on another floor. Over 60 activists attended the meeting where a small group of representatives from our coalition spoke about the bill. When the last speaker finished, all 60 filed out of the room leaving it empty with the exception of lobbyists from the Florida Chamber of Commerce and other business groups and a few, self-proclaimed “Tea Party” members. A press release regarding this action is available on our website. The measure passed with a 12-6 party-line vote. Its next stop is the House Appropriations Committee.

Teacher “Quality”: SB 736, what most have dubbed the “Son of SB6” passed the full Senate on Wednesday. Here is an account from our brothers and sisters at the Florida Education Association:

After about 2 hours of debate SB 736 – the anti-due process bill known by some as SB 6 Lite – was passed by the Senate by a vote of 26 to 12.

As senators glad-handed each other for what they claim to be a monumental achievement, on-lookers walked away shaking their heads amazed that on the third day of session, one of the most controversial education bills filed this session had traveled through the process at lightning speed. Sure, they gave the appearance of transparency and a deliberative process, but the outcome was a foregone conclusion. This bill was going to pass and it was going to pass early, fast and exactly as they had planned without meaningful changes… even if those changes were rationale and reasonable. As expected, they adopted none of the amendments that would have made the bill better.

We can agree with SB 736 proponents on this much: the current evaluation systems in most districts leave much to be desired, are not helpful to teachers and are basically meaningless. Current evaluations are little more than drive-by observations and a list of things to be checked-off by an administrator. These evaluations do nothing to help a teacher become their very best.

But SB 736 is only slightly better and very flawed. This bill is based on an evaluation system that has not been developed, never been tested, and based on a model that researchers say should only be used as a small part of a comprehensive evaluation – never 50 %! Most disturbing is that this proposed system will be the basis for all decisions about teacher pay and employment.

It is really not about helping struggling students. This bill is about a political agenda set long ago: elimination of due process for teachers. The bill fails to include that crucial element that would really make a difference to our students: timely data to help teachers make decisions to help students succeed, and the support and training for teachers to help them improve their craft.

But wait! That doesn’t matter… teachers will magically get better because Florida is going to pay great teachers far more (although they have no dedicated source of funds) and those horrible slacker teachers will be fired ASAP! Life will be good – kids will be learning, better looking, healthier and Florida will be able to compete in the global economy! Hurray! This bill will professionalize teaching according to Sen. Evelyn Lynn (R- Daytona Beach). Teachers will finally be respected when this bill becomes law!

“Young teachers will come to Florida because we can tell them: we will pay you more for your hard work,” Sen. Flores gushed during debate. What she didn’t mention was there is no new funding available to pay those fresh young faces more. In fact, education is facing huge budget cuts this year. Additionally, those teachers who are still on the ‘grandfathered schedule’ in 2014 will only get the scraps after those on the ‘performance schedule’ get their chunk of change.

Sen. Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee) warned senators “this will collapse upon itself, by its own weight, because of lack of funding.”

Supporters of the bill paint a far rosier picture, but those in the trenches working on the Race to the Top evaluation instruments are telling us there is trouble ahead – key elements of the evaluation process such as the value added model and final evaluation instruments have not been completed. There is no time to test the new system, no time to train administrators to use the system and no time to inform teachers as to how evaluated. The bottom line is: teachers are being asked to accept an untried untested system that will profoundly affect their pay and career on faith.

Voting for the bill: Alexander-R, Altman-R, Benacquisto-R, Bennett-R, Bogdanoff-R, Dean-R, Detert-R, Diaz de la Portilla-R, Evers-R, Fasano-R, Flores-R, Gaetz-R, Garcia-R, Gardiner-R, Hays-R, Latvala-R, Lynn-R, Negron-R, Norman-R, Oelrich-R, Simmons-R, Siplin-D, Storms-R, Thrasher-R, Wise, and Haridopols-R

Voting against the bill: Braynon-D, Dockery-R, Hill-D, Jones-R, Joyner-D, Margolis-D, Montford-D, Rich-D, Ring-D, Sachs-D, Smith-D and Sobel-D

At the same time SB 736 was being debated, members of the House Education Committee were discussing HB 7019 By Rep. Fresen (R-Miami) – the nearly identical House version of 736. HB 7019 passed the committee by a party-line vote with Republicans voting for the bill. It will be on the floor of the House next Tuesday, March 15 with a final vote by the House anticipated on Wednesday, March 16.

After hours of failed amendments presented by Democrats, Rep. Dwight Bullard (D-Miami) told the committee, “You say you want to reward the best teachers. Nothing in this bill does that.”

Unemployment Insurance: The House passed its first bill of the Session on Thursday. Unfortunately it was HB 7005, the disastrous legislation that gives big business another tax break by taking lifeline benefits away from the unemployed. The bill:

· Makes it easier to lay off or terminate workers without providing unemployment benefits
· Places additional hurdles in front of workers trying to get benefits
· Reduces the possible weeks of unemployment benefits from 26 to 20 weeks with the maximum being as low as 12 weeks in times of low unemployment
· Reduces the “Experience Rating” tax rate calculation for businesses by 10%
200 unemployed workers from around Florida converged on the Capitol in protest of the bill but the Republican majority pushed it through, after changing the rules and placing serious restrictions on debate. The measure passed with a party-line vote.

SB 728 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with a unanimous vote on Wednesday. The Senate version is much better than the House. It still places additional burdens on the unemployed but does not reduce benefits. House leaders and the Governor are twisting arms in the Senate to adopt the House language but we are urging the Senators to hold firm. We do have commitments that they will but a call to your Senator urging them to stand their ground would be helpful. Senator Nancy Detert is carrying the Senate bill and should be thanked for her much more balanced approach.

Pensions: SB 1130, the pension bill dealing with the FRS passed the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee on Thursday, March 10th with a vote of 12-1. Sen. Gary Siplin cast the only “No” vote. Substantial amendments were added to the bill thanks to a well coordinated effort by our coalition of public sector unions. The amendments dramatically reduce the negative impacts of the legislation.

· Members of FRS making less than $40,000 per year will not be forced to make a contribution.
· Contribution for workers earning between $40,000 and $75,000 is capped at 2%
· Regular class pension fund members making more than that would have to contribute 2 percent of their first $75,000 in salary and 4 percent of what they make above that. Senior administrators and elected officials would simply pay 4 percent of their full salary if they make more than $75,000.
· The Defined Plan will still be open for new hires earning less than $75,000 per year, while those making more than that would be forced to take a 401 (k) style proposal without a defined benefit.
Republican Senators Latvala, Dean and Norman did much of the heavy lifting on these amendments. It is widely believed that at the bill’s next stop, the Senate Budget Committee that some of this will be removed by Budget Chair Sen. JD Alexander. The strong vote in committee however, gives us hope.

Rich Templin, Ph.D.

Legislative & Political Director

Florida AFL-CIO

(850) 224-6926 / (850) 566-4348 cell


“Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless

means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.” – Paulo Freire

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Rally Update for Tonight.

Brothers and Sisters,
Update on rally for tonight. Please do not bring whistles, horns, drums etc.. This is an indoor rally!!

I look forward to seeing all of you there tonight at 6 pm. 
Keith Love
Business Agent

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Actually, employee pensions aren’t bankrupting states


From state legislatures to Congress to tea party rallies, a vocal backlash is rising against what are perceived as too-generous retirement benefits for state and local government workers. However, that widespread perception doesn’t match reality.

A close look at state and local pension plans across the nation, and a comparison of them to those in the private sector, reveals a more complicated story. However, the short answer is that there’s simply no evidence that state pensions are the current burden to public finances that their critics claim.

Pension contributions from state and local employers aren’t blowing up budgets. They amount to just 2.9 percent of state spending, on average, according to the National Association of State Retirement Administrators. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College puts the figure a bit higher at 3.8 percent.

Read More…

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Urgent: Rally March 8, 2011

Brothers and Sisters

A rally will be taking place on Tuesday March 8th from 6 pm to 8 pm at the Mahi Temple located at 1480 NW North River Drive Miami Fl. This rally coincides with the many state wide rallies going on around the state in support of working families everywhere throughout the state.

Bring a sign, whistle, horn, drum or just yourself to show solidarity to all union working families throughout the state and our local area. In these difficult times we face if we do not show a united front then surly the powers running this state will only feed on our inability to unite.

I hope to see you all there on Tuesday!

In Solidarity,

Keith Love

Business Agent


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New bills bills going into the start of the legislative session

Brothers and Sisters here are some of the bills going into the start of the legislative session. As you will see the scope of these bills is to take away the rights of working families, and to try to totally wipe out the unions ability to collectively bargain on your behalf. We will keep you up to date and informed as to the progress of these bills.

Interim Committee Edition

February 25, 2011

Beware! The 2011 Legislative Session begins Tuesday, March 8

It’s time to meet with your legislators!  Senators and representatives will be back home next week (February 28 – March 7) so make appointments ASAP – you have a lot to talk to them about! Read on and start dialing those phones!

If you don’t know who your senator or representative is go to Just fill in your address and city and VOILA! You will see the smiling face of your state senator.  (Below his or her picture is a link that takes you to the House webpage listing all House members with a ‘Find Your Representative’ tab at the top)

Anti-due process bill heads to Senate floor

SB 736 —the so called teacher quality bill— has been heard by all Senate committees of reference and has been placed on the 2011 Senate Session calendar for Wednesday, March 9.  Tell everyone you know to call or write their Senator and tell him/her that this bill is flawed and needs to be fixed and funded!  SB 736 will:

·       Dramatically increase FCAT type testing of students, costing hundreds of millions in tax-dollars, without a way to pay for them

·       Link teacher evaluations and pay to student performance on FCAT and similar type tests

·       Subjects ALL new teachers to be fired without ANY explanation or just cause

·       Prohibits local school boards from even considering many advanced degrees and special training when determining a teacher’s level of pay.

The House version has a number now: HB 7019.  At the time this report was written, the bill did not have any committee hearings scheduled… but it will.

More bad news – more anti-union bills filed

The House companion to Sen. John Thrasher’s SB 830 — the Union Gag Bill– has been filed.  HB 1021 sponsored by Rep. Chris Dorworth (R-Heathrow) is identical to the senate version.  As of yet, the bills have not been placed on committee agendas… stay tuned.  As you may recall, these bills take away the right of members to have their dues automatically deducted from their paychecks by the school district.

More ugly anti-education union bills were filed today (Friday):  HB 1023 by Rep. Scott Plakon (R- Longwood) and HB 1025 by Rep. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford).  Although we have not fully analyzed the bills, here’s what we see at first glance:

·       HB 1023 will require recertification of a local union, as bargaining agent, that has a membership less than 50 percent of the potential bargaining unit membership by July 1, 2011, or the certification of the bargaining unit will be revoked.   The bill does not apply to law enforcement officers or firefighters.

·       HB 1025 will allow the members of a union to decertify the union as bargaining agent at any time. It requires union leaders to notify members of this right each year.

And some fairly good news – pension foes backing off…a little

Thursday, Senate Governmental and Accountability Committee chair, Sen. Jeremy Ring (D-Margate) held a workshop on SB 1130 – the FRS reform bill.  The bill —as it is currently written —would require employees to contribute 2 percent of their salaries toward their pensions.

The committee took 2 hours of testimony and discussed proposed amendments which will be considered when the committee meets after the legislative session begins March 8.

Sen. Jack Latvala (R-St. Petersburg) has been working with FEA and Pinellas CTA along with other public employee unions to protect the FRS system.  “I feel strongly that there are many people who work for government for the pension they are going to get,” Latvala said. “It’s important to keep that path open for them.”

Gov. Scott’s budget proposal had included a 5% employee contribution, along with a plan to end the defined benefit plan in which most public employees are currently enrolled – requiring all new employees to be placed in 401(k) plans.

Former FRS director Andrew McMullen cautioned the committee to not destroy a system that has become the envy of others. “You cannot improve on the system, but you can destroy the system,” McMullian said.  “You are putting employees at risk with the ebb and flow of the stock market.”

Union representatives, teachers, firefighters, and university officials told committee members that public employees trade higher salaries in the private sector for the retirement benefits available from the state.

As you recall, Florida’s pension system has operated in a surplus for much of the past 15 years. But during the recent recession, like most investments, the fund took a hit. Now it is nearly at fully funded status.

LaFrances Flynn Trotter

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