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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida is not like Wisconsin, teachers union lawyer says



With collective bargaining and organizing rights under siege, the Florida Education Association has launched a counter-offensive to the Florida Chamber of Commerce campaign that aims to paint unions as bullies.

In two conference calls with reporters Monday morning, FEA lawyer Ron Meyer took pains to explain to reporters that the state's teachers have no plans to call a strike, sick-out, walkout or any other mass movement in opposition to several bills that would take away many of the workplace rights that they have won over 40 years.

"We're just not going to get into that game," Meyer said, adding that teachers remain focused on the best interest of students first, even with their growing anger over the legislative efforts in Tallahassee.

Meyer observed that Florida is a right-to-work state, where employees may volunteer to join bargaining groups or elect not to. In the instance of school districts, unresolved contracts do not go to binding arbitration where a district might be forced to act against its position. Rather, state law puts all the power with school boards, which can impose terms on employees regardless of any mediator's recommendations.

It's nothing like Wisconsin, Indiana or other midwestern states, where unions have more power that Republican leaders are working to defang.

"To take these principles" coming up in those states "and put them in a right to work state like Florida simply doesn't make any sense," Meyer said.

FEA spokesman Mark Pudlow told reporters to expect to hear much more from the association and its members as the legislative session ensues.  SB 736, which would change the way teachers are evaluated, paid, contracted, hired and fired comes to the Senate floor on Wednesday. Stay tuned. 

[Last modified: Monday, March 7, 2011 1:30pm]


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