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Under legislation, state would no longer collect dues for long list of public employees unions

FILE - This Tuesday, April 23, 2019, file photo shows the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Public employee unions in Florida will be facing scrutiny from lawmakers when they return to the Capitol next week for their annual session.

For at least the last three years, lawmakers have been trying to take the state out of the business of collecting union dues, but the ban on collecting dues would not apply to every public employer union.

Under proposed legislation, the state would no longer collect dues for a long list of public employee unions. Sponsor state Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, argues the state shouldn’t be in the middle of a relationship between the employee and employer.

“Rather than having the school system collecting those dues and going through the legwork of working for the unions and making their collections for them, it would be much more appropriate if that were a direct relationship,” Baxley told us while traveling.

The legislation also requires employees to sign a membership authorization form that must include language telling the employee that Florida is a right to work state and joining a union is voluntary.

Florida Education Association President Andrew Sparr calls the legislation a distraction.

“So everything this Legislature should focus on right now is what are we doing to recruit people and keep people in the profession, working in our public schools so that every child gets the education they deserve,” says Sparr.

Rich Templin, of the Florida AFL-CIO, says passage would be a disruption for the staff who worked thru the pandemic.

“This bill makes it difficult for them to remain in their union,” says Templin, because they may lose benefits if they forget to mail a timely check.

But the legislation would not apply to every public sector union. Police officers, firefighters and correctional employees could still have their dues deducted from their state check.

Templin says that is just one of the bill’s inconsistencies.

“Some university personnel, for example, they have a paycheck deduction for their football tickets. That will still be allowed” says Templin.

Under the legislation, unions would also face decertification if their membership fell below at least 50% of those eligible to join.

In previous years, law enforcement officers were included in drafts of the legislation, but after complaining loudly, they were removed from the bill.

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