Union membership often about pay, not philosophy, Pasco union leader says

A bill in the Florida Legislature would decertify unions that don't have at least 50 percent participation.
United School Employees of Pasco president Don Peace [YouTube]
United School Employees of Pasco president Don Peace [YouTube]
Published Feb. 1, 2018

Florida lawmakers seeking to decertify teacher unions that don't have at least half of eligible employees as members might have a hand in creating that situation, a local union leader suggested.

The Legislature has not provided enough money over the years to give teachers adequate raises, and they as a result cannot afford to pay annual union dues, said Don Peace, United School Employees of Pasco president.

Three percent annual raises don't keep up with inflation, Peace said. "People have to put their family needs ahead of their particulars."

The legislation "clearly puts a target on our back," he said. "I have to feel it is because of the positions we've taken" on charter schools, vouchers and other subjects the Legislature promotes.

USEP operations director Jim Ciadella noted that the language had been moved to HB 7055, an appropriations bill filled with a variety of proposals that appeal to different groups — similar to the trajectory of HB 7069 last spring.

The USEP knows firsthand how that process works. Last spring, it fought to stop a bill that would ban school districts from granting teachers on annual contract any job guarantees beyond their one-year commitment — a bill the Pasco school district administration actively supported.

The bill was killed in a Senate committee, but came back in HB 7069 and ultimately was passed into law, negating deals made by nearly half the teacher unions in Florida.

"It's going to be harder for individual legislators to really vote against that one piece," Ciadella said. "It seems rather obvious what they are doing."

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