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Florida GOP Passes Bill to Undermine Unions for Public Employees — Except Cops

The bill would bar unions for teachers and nurses from automatically collecting dues.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives remarks at the Heritage Foundation's 50th Anniversary Leadership Summit at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on April 21, 2023, in National Harbor, Maryland.

The Republican-dominated Florida legislature passed an extreme anti-labor bill on Wednesday that would severely weaken unions for public employees and expand the state’s ability to abolish those unions, while carving out an exemption for a notable group: police.

The bill, which passed the state Senate last month and is headed to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s desk, takes direct aim at public sector unions’ finances by barring them from being able to deduct dues from workers’ paychecks, forcing workers to make a separate payment — unlike how other regular payments like health insurance are typically deducted. Similarly to the way that so-called right-to-work laws erode unions by targeting union pocketbooks, the bill could severely harm unions’ ability to operate and exist in the state.

Even if the financial hit weren’t enough, the bill also gives the state the ability to dissolve a public sector union’s certification if the proportion of dues-paying members within a unit dips below 60 percent, forcing the union to seek recertification. Essentially, the bill sets up a path for unions to lose dues-paying members en masse with the goal of wiping out the unions and, potentially, their collective bargaining agreements.

Perhaps the most telling detail about the motivations behind the bill, which has the support of DeSantis, is which unions it doesn’t attack.

Workers like nurses, school workers and teachers — the latter of whom have been the subject of relentless attacks by DeSantis’s fascist regime — would see their unions under threat due to the bill. But unions representing firefighters, corrections officers and police would still be allowed to collect dues as normal.

Other provisions, like forcing public sector unions to disclose their top paid officers and employees, also carve out police unions as an exception.

Opponents of the bill say that it is very clear that the bill is aimed at attacking unions to advance DeSantis and the GOP’s anti-labor and pro-policing goals.

“The goal of the bill is to eliminate collective bargaining for public-sector workers who the governor doesn’t like,” Rich Templin, Florida AFL-CIO labor federation director of politics and public policy, told HuffPost. “Nobody that’s directly involved has asked for this. This is another in a very long line of policies being advanced solely for the governor’s run for the White House.”

Indeed, the bill appears to make it clear that Republicans understand the rising labor movement’s potential ability to push back fascism.

Republicans across the country have been going after unions, seemingly with the knowledge that organized labor is a threat to their power; the left has long maintained that organized labor can be a powerful tool in fighting fascism, as exemplified recently by Florida teachers’ unions resistance to DeSantis’s attacks on education.

At the same time, fascists have much to gain from shielding police unions from attacks. Abolitionists point out that policing is inextricably linked with fascism, as shown in part by the fact that far right militias and white supremacist groups keep hundreds of law enforcement personnel in their ranks. Police unions, meanwhile, are structured to protect even the most abusive police from facing any form of accountability and uphold a law enforcement system that allows police to kill with impunity.

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