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Union-Busting Bill Draws Lawsuit from Florida Education Association and Teachers

| July 3, 2018

union busting bill florida

Should a school bus stop its run once its less than 50 percent full? (US Department of Education)

Florida teachers and unions filed a lawsuit Monday challenging the constitutionality of a new law that requires local unions to represent 50 percent or more of instructional personnel.


The law, which passed during this year’s legislative session and took effect Sunday, enacted a series of major changes in the public-school system.

Known as House Bill 7055, the measure created a new “Hope” scholarship program that will allow students who are bullied to transfer to private schools. It expanded financial support for Gardiner scholarships, which provide aid to disabled students. And it raised evidentiary standards for school boards trying to terminate charter schools.

But the lawsuit, which was filed by the Florida Education Association, nine local teachers’ unions, eight teachers and eight local union representatives, is aimed at a specific provision in the law that would result in local unions losing their certification if membership falls below 50 percent of the employees they represent in the collective-bargaining process.

Loss of certification would force the local unions to go through the costly, time-consuming process of holding elections to renew their right to represent teachers. If certification is lost, the local unions could not represent the instructional personnel in negotiations with local school boards on issues such as teacher pay, leave policies and planning days.

The lawsuit, filed in Leon County circuit court, alleges the new law is the result of a legislative “train” bill that contained multiple topics and violated a provision in the state Constitution that requires each law to “embrace but one subject and matter properly connected therewith.”

The new law “contains multiple subjects that have little relationship to one another and absolutely no relationship to the recertification requirement contained” in the measure, the lawsuit said.

“There is no natural or logical connection between education and union density or requiring a public employee union to recertify its status as the exclusive bargaining unit for members of the instructional staff of a school district,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also alleges the union certification provision violates the “equal protection” clause in the state Constitution because it treats teachers’ unions differently from other public-employee unions, including those that represent law enforcement members.

The constitutional right for public employees to participate in a collective-bargaining process is also “impaired” by the new law, as well as the right of non-union members to benefit from the negotiations, the lawsuit said.

Melissa Rudd, a high school English teacher and president of the Wakulla Classroom Teachers Association who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said the new law is the latest in a series of policies undermining public school teachers, including “high-stakes” testing and the elimination of annual contracts for new teachers.

“This really is like the last straw,” Rudd said. “We’re not feeling defeated. We’re feeling angry. … We are tired of being the target of legislators. We want to get back to focusing on our kids and improving everything that we can.”

Ron Meyer, a lawyer representing the teachers, said the lawsuit is specifically aimed at eliminating the union certification provision. But he said if the courts find the law violated the Constitution’s “one-subject” provision, it could invalidate the entire new law, including provisions like the Hope scholarships.

Joanne McCall, president of the Florida Education Association, which has about 140,000 members, said 13 local unions are below the 50 percent certification threshold, but that the bargaining units are working to increase membership and meet the requirement.

The lawsuit was filed against the three-member Florida Public Employees Relations Commission, the agency responsible for overseeing the collective-bargaining process.

In interviews Friday, incoming Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, defended the new law, arguing it was part of the Legislature’s effort to expand school “choice” programs, providing more educational options for students and their families.

Galvano said he supports the public school system, noting he holds an annual golf tournament that raises money for the Manatee County schools. But he also said the recent legislative initiatives are aimed at focusing more on the students rather than the existing institutions.

“If you focus on the student, then all forms of education are important,” he said. “They have to back away from that institutional view and start looking at the student view. And I don’t think the suit will be successful.”

–Lloyd Dunkleberger and Jim Turner, News Service of Florida

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7 Responses for “Union-Busting Bill Draws Lawsuit from Florida Education Association and Teachers”

  1. Rhonda says:

    Hope the Florida Education Association prevails.

  2. Anonymous says:

    How about transferring bullies to alternative schools? Seems like the Hope program is just the latest voucher program to funnel taxpayer money into private institutions. Moving bullied students might help them, but it does not address the root of the problem: the bullies, who remain at the old school where they will find a new prey.

  3. Richard says:

    I believe that ALL unions should be disbanded across the country. They do nothing to benefit the American public and are only in business to collect dues for the officer’s huge salaries.

  4. PublicUnionsShouldFail says:

    Nothing wrong with private sector unions. If you over price your good or service for the quality received, people can look elsewhere. They were needed 100 years ago. Now we have OSHA and Labor Laws.
    Public sector unions, of which 90% of their earmarked political funds go to the Democrats, are a different story.
    They take money from the taxpayers, rarely take a pay cut, and basically extort in my opinion. Then they retire very young with someone else’s $$$, guaranteed. Teachers are paid handsomely for a part time job. 170 days a year???

  5. Mothersworry says:

    Wow!! I don’t know where to start!

    To those that decry unions, look around you. Where do you think the 40 hour work week came from? Why do some get sick days, paid vacations, medical coverage? The Family Leave Act has been championed by unions. Workplace safety. Matching 401’s I could go on and on. Admittedly some of these benefits have lessened and have been chipped away at by big business and their lobbyists. Remember when a comprehensive health plan was the norm? Now we are lucky to have a costly HMO loaded with doctors we never heard of. Remember who brought the HMO it sure as heck wasn’t the unions. Do you actually think that the few benefits that you have are given to you out of the benevolence of your employer? They are afraid that if they didn’t give you something you would be trying to get a union into your workplace. Admittedly union benefits have weakened under the past few congress’s but somebody elected them. I believe that I am pretty much accurate when I say that when unions decline so does about every thing else.

    “Teachers are paid handsomely for a part time job”. Really?? I would venture that you pay the guy who picks up your trash darnn close to what you pay… The person who spends more time with your child than you do in their most formative years. That would be the same person that spends all day attempting to educate your undisciplined, impolite child. That would be the same person that sends note after note pleading with you to please take an interest in your child’s education. That would be the same person that spends their money to buy a pair of sneakers for your child because the duct tape you put on will no longer hold them together. That would be the same person that you give your child to and pray to God that if an active shooter shows up at you kids school that the “handsomely paid teacher” somehow protects and comforts and keeps them alive. Oh, before all this, the teacher has to have 2 degrees and pretty soon a gun.
    But let somebody talk about changing the hours of school and watch all the interest. Actually schools are treated pretty much like funded day care.

  6. Jim Bob says:

    Ironically, Flagler County is rife with pensioners from northeastern and midwestern states whose union pensions dwarf the actual salaries of current public service workers in Florida. Once here, they suddenly hate unions and align themselves with the alt-right fringe groups which control local politics.

  7. Mothersworry says:

    Well said Jim Bob.

    I have never been able to understand that mind set. Sorta I’ve got mine screw everybody else way of thinking. But if Trump and his coat holders continues in the direction they are going those pensions will be dwindling.

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