By Larry Sand
A new law in the Sunshine State makes public employee unions competitive.
Since 2018, courtesy of the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling, no public employee has to pay a penny to a union as a condition of employment, and workers have been indeed leaving. The Mackinac Foundation’s Jarrett Skorup recently noted, “Public records requests to government entities show that more than 20% of workers nationwide have withdrawn from union membership. In short, around 1 million people who work under collective bargaining agreements have exercised their First Amendment right to decline union membership.”
All good and well, but there is still much work to do. Even if an employee decides to forgo union membership, he or she – willingly or not – is still part of the collective bargaining unit. So, when contract time rolls around, the worker must accept the terms of the union agreement.
Why should an unwilling worker be dragged into a collective bargaining agreement?Those who don’t want to join a union should not be forced to be a part of the collective bargaining unit at all. They should be free to negotiate for themselves, and not be required to have anything to do with a union. The idea of a “members only” union is fair to both sides, but it is invariably reviled by monopoly-possessed union honchos.
Also, if a worker wants to be in a union, but doesn’t like the one now in place, can they start a competing union?
No, because the unions disdain any form of competition. As Mike Antonucci explains, “The very first thing any new union wants is exclusivity,” whereby “no other unions are allowed to negotiate on behalf of people in the bargaining unit. Unit members cannot hire their own agent, nor can they represent themselves.”
But now, Florida has taken a step in the right direction. Under the state’s SB 256, which went into effect July 1, if public employee union locals don’t get dues from at least 60% of their members, they risk decertification. While not a perfect bill – it doesn’t touch the exclusivity diktat, e.g., – it at least makes for a more competitive arrangement.
In Miami, the hegemony of the United Teachers of Dade, an affiliate of Randi Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers, is in trouble. As of Nov.10, the number of union dues payers in Miami-Dade public schools was at 58.4%, and if it can’t hit the 60% threshold by Dec. 15, a board appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis will step in and begin the process of decertifying the union.
The union and its acolytes are in an absolute snit over the turn of events. Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade, called SB 256 the “most egregious, most anti-union bill ever proffered.”
Democratic State Sen. Shevrin Jones, a former educator, said he is concerned that any change to a bargaining agreement could be detrimental to working families. “As a result, paid holidays, merit pay raises, longevity bonuses, and sick leave benefits are all on the chopping block,” Jones said in a recent text message. “This is yet another stark reminder that elections have consequences.”
Hernandez-Mats and Jones’ comments are way off base, however. The state is not outlawing unions or engaged in “union busting,” but has simply createda competitive system.
Entering the playing field is the Miami-Dade Education Coalition, which bills itself as a “registered employee organization, founded by educators, dedicated to serving the teachers and other education professionals of Miami-Dade County Public Schools for the purposes of collective bargaining regarding wages, hours, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment for M-DCPS educators.”
One immediate benefit of joining MDEC, should it be successful in its quest, is much lower dues. Public school teachers in Florida and nationwide are forced into a unified dues structure when joining a union. This means that they join a national union, its state affiliate, and the local union. Most of the teachers’ dues money goes to the state and national affiliates, which spend copious sums of it on politicking.
According to the most recent LM-2 form submitted by the NEA to the IRS, the union raked in $377 million in dues and agency fees during 2021. However, a mere $32 million was earmarked for representational activity, supposedly the NEA’s top priority, while $66 million was spent on political activities.
But despite an EdWeek poll in 2017 which found that 43% of teachers nationwide described themselves as politically moderate, 29% as liberal, and 27% as conservative, some recently released data reveal that between 2000 and 2020, the National Education Association spent $191,315,888 on state and national politics, with 98.7% of it going to Democrats.
Even more one-sided politically, the American Federation of Teachers spent 86,914,628 on state and national politics between 2000 and 2020, and 99.9% of it went to Democrats.
However, If MDEC gains power, teachers’ dues will be cut in at least half, as it won’t engage in any political spending.
Looking beyond the exclusivity issue, the other problem with Florida’s SB 256 is that unions representing law enforcement officers, correctional officers, correctional probation officers, and firefighters are exempt from the law. The claim here is that these groups have typically backed DeSantis and other Republicans.
While not perfect, Florida’s SB 256 is certainly a step in the right direction, and other locals in the Sunshine State are nervously following the battle in Miami.
Could there be national implications? Stay tuned.
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Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.
The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal Florida.