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  1. Florida Politics

Romano: If you go union-busting, at least be honest enough to admit it

SCOTT KEELER   |   Times An empty Florida Senate floor is seen Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 in Tallahassee.
SCOTT KEELER | Times An empty Florida Senate floor is seen Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 in Tallahassee.
Published Jan. 27, 2018

Usually, you get pretty deep into a legislative session before lawmakers start abandoning their glib pretense of logic and honesty.

So, kudos to the Florida House of Representatives for discovering an early shortcut to shamelessness.

Less than three weeks after the opening gavel, the House has already passed a bill that is so nakedly dishonest and illogical that it's hard to find anyone willing to defend it.

This bill, HB 25, was purportedly written with the common working stiff in mind. In reality, it's a blatant stab at union-busting.

Now, we can argue the merits and flaws of all unions, but this bill does not go down that road. Instead, it's a back-door attempt to kill some unions while protecting others.

Here's the gist of it:

If a public employee union can't prove at least 50 percent of its workers are dues-paying members, then it gets bulldozed out of existence.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, says it's a worker-friendly bill meant to empower the majority of employees being railroaded by a small group of union leaders.

Yet Plakon's bill excludes unions representing law enforcement, firefighters and prison guards.

See the flaw? Or to put it another way, see the blatant load of hooey?

If this bill was meant to empower workers, why are we excluding cops and firefighters? That makes no sense. So, either we are:

A) Cheating our first responders by ignoring them.

Or:

B) This bill isn't as worker-friendly as Plakon says.

You can't have it both ways.

When asked Thursday whether workers were calling his office seeking this remedy, Plakon pretty much acknowledged they were not. And yet he's been pushing this bill since 2011. That's seven years, and there's been no visible support from the very people he says he's trying to help.

And there's a good reason for that. Even if workers were concerned with the situation, Florida law already allows them to decertify a union by a simple majority vote. In that sense, the law is overkill.

So, what's really happening here?

This is the House's attempt to weaken unions, specifically teachers unions. Teachers have long been a thorn in the side of the GOP's voucher/charter school plans, and this looks like payback. Nurses, paramedics, probation officers, bus drivers and other unions are collateral damage.

The good news is the House passed the same bill last year, and the Senate killed it, and that will likely happen again. But that's not enough. Lawmakers need to be held accountable for cynical and potentially damaging votes made simply to curry favor with party leaders.

Thirteen legislators from the Tampa Bay area, all Republican, voted in favor of this bill late Thursday. On Friday morning, I emailed all 13 asking them to justify their vote in light of the bill's obvious contradictions.

I didn't hear from a single member.

For the record, the list was Larry Ahern, Danny Burgess, Richard Corcoran, James Grant, Shawn Harrison, Blaise Ingoglia, Amber Mariano, Ralph Massullo, Lawrence McClure, Kathleen Peters, Ross Spano and Chris Sprowls. Jake Raburn entered a yes vote after the fact. Jackie Toledo and Chris Latvala missed the vote. Lat­vala was the lone Republican to vote against it in a committee last month.

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