Workers protest outside committee room on bill to 'silence their speech'
About two dozen current and retired state workers, all union members, stood with blue tape over their mouths outside a Senate hearing room Monday in protest of a bill aimed at banning them from political activity.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. John Thrasher, would prevent unions from using worker dues to finance political committees and from allowing workers to voluntarily have their dues deducted from their wages as a payroll deduction. It is the first in a series of bills that tighten the grip on public employee unions.
"It's revenge,'' said Scott Whittle, a high school teacher from Lincoln High School in Tallahassee who stood outside the Senate Community Affairs Committee meeting. He said Thrasher led the charge last year to "ramrod this down the taxpayers throats" the bill to eliminate teacher tenure, which was vetoed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist. “He wants to get back at the people that’s why he wants no union involvement, no taxpayer money, no political activity.”
Sen. Mike Bennett, the committe chairman, took up his bills and consumed most of the meeting so the committee ran out of time. Bennett, R-Bradenton, said he promises to bring the bill up at the meeting next week.