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Florida Threatens to Fire Teachers Who Take Day Off for Rally

January 13, 2020

By Steve Wishnia and Neal Tepel

LAKELAND, Fla.—The Florida Department of Education’s lead lawyer warned teachers Jan. 10 that if enough of them took Jan. 13 off to go to a union rally in Tallahassee, they could be fired for participating in an illegal strike. The warning came after Polk County Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd told the department that she expected between 600 and 1,600 teachers to take a personal day off for the “Take on Tallahassee” rally organized by the Florida Education Association. “A concerted failure to report for duty constitutes an illegal strike under Florida law,” general counsel Matthew Mears responded in an email, adding that teachers could be fired and their union barred from bargaining. Byrd forwarded the email to Polk school employees, claiming that it “was not a threat from me to fire staff.” Florida, which has among the lowest teachers’ salaries in the U.S., outlawed teachers’ strikes in 1968. The Polk County Education Association said on its Facebook page that the rally was “never meant to be a work stoppage.” Union President Stephanie Yocum told the Orlando Sentinel that Polk County, between Tampa and Orlando, was sending one of the largest contingents in the state to Tallahassee. Read more

January 13, 2020

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