ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla.—In the session that opens Jan. 9, the Florida legislature will take up a bill that public-sector unions fear
could wipe them out. House Bill 25, sponsored by state Rep. Scott Plakon (R-Longwood), would automatically decertify any public-employee union, depriving them of the power to bargain, if its dues-paying membership falls below 50% of the workers it represents. To re-establish themselves, they would have to win a whole new organizing campaign. Many of the state’s unions are vulnerable: Less than 10% of the state workers represented by AFSCME and the Florida Nurses Association are members. About 45% of Miami’s 30,000 public-school teachers are dues-paying members of the United Teachers of Dade, and in the St. Augustine area, about 49% of St. Johns County’s 2,500 teachers are members of the St. Johns Education Association. The bill exempts unions representing first responders. With teachers and other civilian public-sector workers predominantly female, United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats told In These Times, HB25 “targets women-dominated industries by seeking to eradicate their labor rights.” A similar measure passed the state House last year, but went nowhere in the Senate. This year, its chances are considered better, as Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) has introduced a companion bill.