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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Senate chief clarifies union dues language in budget bill

Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander took a point of personal privilege to challenge allegations from union repesentatives that the budget conforming bill was an attempt to tuck the ban on collecting union dues in the budget language. He said the only way that could happen is if the Legislature passed SB 830, sponsored by Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, which has been on hold for the last several days as Thrahser tries to get enough votes to pass the measure.

"I just wanted to clear the air,'' said Alexander. "I had no intention and I asked specifically when these issues were brought forward."

Florida's unions have said that the measure, offered by the House and accepted by the Senate last Sunday during budget negotiations, that the provision that paves the way for a ban on union dues for several state worker unions.  If Thrasher's bill passes and the language is not included in the budget, unions can argue that the law violates their contract rights under the state Constitution and be allowed to continue to collect dues for the year the contract is in force. Absent the language in the conforming bill, the governor could attempt to ban dues deduction but he would draw a lawsuit, they say.

Ron Meyer, counsel for the Florida Education Association, which would not be affected by the budget language, agrees with legislators that the conforming bill language will not allow the state to prevent unions from using payroll deduction to collect union dues. But he disagrees with their stated motives in folding "a non-economic issue into the conforming bill.''

"It's rooted in an anti-employee, anti-union attack,'' he said. During budget negotiations, the governor has wanted to take out the ability of unions to collect dues through payroll deduction but unions have refused to agree to that. He believes that absent the language in the conforming bill, the Legislature can't change state law by using the conforming bill. "What they were trying to do indirectly was prevent the unions from a contract right to payroll deduction."

Here's the explanation from Florida House spokeswoman Katie Betta:

Section 447.303, Florida Statutes, provides that a certified collective bargaining agent shall have the right to have its dues deducted and collected by the employer from the salaries of those employees who authorize the deduction. 

It would take a change in this section of statute to take away this right.  This section of statute is not be amended in SB 2094.  The purpose of the conforming bill , SB 2094, agreed to by the House and Senate in Conference on 4/30/11, is to resolve collective bargaining articles remaining at impasse between the state (governor) and the unions.  

The House and Senate agreed in conference to resolve the article in the contract, applicable to union dues by the state’s last offer, which was to vacate the article.   In no way does this override the statute, thus it does not impact the requirement that public employers deduct dues. 

The governor has been given no authority to stop dues collection; he has to comply with current law which requires the state, as well as all public employers, to deduct union dues.   Vacating the article does not prohibit unions from negotiating to propose re-enacting the article in future negotiations as was apparently implied by some unions.


[Last modified: Monday, May 2, 2011 12:04pm]


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