Pasco teachers union surpasses state mandated membership level

The United School Employees of Pasco keeps track of its membership goal on a chart in its Land O'Lakes office. It was slightly over 50 percent in mid July. [Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times]
The United School Employees of Pasco keeps track of its membership goal on a chart in its Land O'Lakes office. It was slightly over 50 percent in mid July. [Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times]
Published August 6

The United School Employees of Pasco appears to have avoided the decertification threat that the Florida Legislature added to law over the spring.

With the addition of 132 new members at a recent new teacher orientation, the labor organization announced it comfortably surpassed the 50 percent membership bar that lawmakers put in its path.

As recently as May, the USEP fell short of the standard that legislators established. The group had until early fall, when its registration renewal comes due, to meet the mark.

Some lawmakers contended that teacher bargaining units such as the USEP should prove they represent a majority of the employees they serve in order to retain their status. They inserted into law a requirement that the unions much have at least half of all eligible employees as members, or face a lengthy decertification and recertification process.

Teachers, including non-bargaining unit members, contended that the mandate was unfair in that it could possibly take away their constitutional right to collective bargaining. Some sued the state over the provision in early July, a day after the law took effect.

Related coverage: Teachers, labor organizations sue over Florida 'union busting' law 

The upshot in many counties has been an uptick in membership, though, as many teachers have pushed back against the legislative move.

Pasco's numbers — part of a concerted membership drive —  put the USEP "well over" the requirement, the group announced, with the 132 new members a record registration for orientation.

The USEP is now turning its attention to pressuring the School Board for raises.

Related coverage: Florida teachers on edge as new law threatens their unions 

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