TALLAHASSEE — Saying unions were requesting a "drastic remedy which should be granted only sparingly," Leon County Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford rejected a union request to issue an injunction and segregate public employees' 3 percent pension contributions from the state's retirement fund. A new law requiring the payments went into effect Friday.
Fulford issued her ruling late Thursday. The Florida Education Association is suing Gov. Rick Scott and other state officials, arguing the payments are unlawful and unconstitutional. The Florida Police Benevolent Association and the SEIU Florida Public Service Union joined the teachers in the lawsuit.
Attorneys for the unions asked Fulford to put the 3 percent payments in an interest-bearing escrow account as the case works its way through the courts, saying there was no clear mechanism for returning the money to employees if the unions prevail.
In her eight-page opinion, Fulford said the unions failed to meet all requirements of a four-part test for determining if the injunction was warranted. Specifically, Fulford said the unions suffer no irreparable harm if the money is put in the larger retirement fund and a legal remedy exists for returning the money if necessary.
"This will not stop us from fighting to make Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders live up to the promises made to our teachers, law-enforcement officers, firefighters and other employees," said Florida Education Association president Andy Ford in a prepared statement.
Teachers union attorney Ron Meyer called the ruling a minor setback.
"This hearing is only the first battle in what will be a long legal war against this antiworker legislation," said Alphonso Mayfield, president of the SEIU Florida Public Service Workers Union. "Our focus remains on trying to overturn this unconstitutional income tax on public employees."
A trial is set for Oct. 26.