HB 13: An attack on educators’ voice in the workplace

Remember last year’s House Bill 25 sponsored by Representative Scott Plankon which singled out FEA for decertification? Since HB 25 had the opposite of its intended effect—FEA membership soared instead of decreasing—legislators are now trying another attack on public sector labor unions.

One of the dirty secrets of some legislators is they don’t write the bills the sponsor. Instead they outsource bill-writing to secretive groups like the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

This was the case with last year’s HB 25 as well as this year’s HB 13 which was heard on Wednesday, March 6 in the House Oversight, Transparency, & Pubic Management Subcommittee. You can watch the committee meeting rebroadcast on the Florida Channel.

Compare for yourself ALEC’s model language and HB 13 filed by Representative Jayer Williamson. You’ll notice they are virtually identical:

ALEC’s model language

“Union activities” means activities that are performed by a union, union member or representatives that relate to advocating the interests of member employees in wages, benefits, terms and conditions of employment or the enforcement, fulfillment or advancement of the union’s organizational purposes, obligations, external relations or internal policies and procedures.

compared with

HB 13’s language:

“Employee organization activities” means activities that are performed by an employee organizations or members or representatives of an employee organization that relate to advocating the interests of member employees in wages, benefits, terms and conditions of employment,  or the enforcement, fulfillment or advancement of the employee organization’s organizational purposes, obligations, external relations, or internal policies and procedures.

If enacted into law, HB13 would prohibit public sector collective bargaining agreements from including any provisions to allow union release time. This would mean that local union presidents and other representatives could no longer use release time to bargain contracts, attend grievances and carry out other essential job functions.

In short, union release time provides a stable and consistent line of communication and cooperation between unions and management. This bill would seek to undermine that stability which would negatively impact all public sector workers, whether they choose to be a member of their union or not.

Republican Representative Rene Plasencia, who proudly told the committee he is a union member, joined with the four Democrats on the committee to oppose the bill. Plasencia did a good job of speaking up for unions stating:

“I don’t see the point (of the bill)… where’s the problem. What problem are we trying to fix with this bill?”

Freshman Representative Anna Eskamani highlighted many of the benefits that unions have afforded all working people including the 40-hour work week, sick leave, lunch breaks and many other benefits.

Eskamani further pointed out the proposed bill is likely unconstitutional since the Florida Constitution clearly states the rights of employees to bargain collectively “shall not be denied or abridged.”

While there is not yet a Senate companion to this HB 13, it is still important to contact your Representative and ask them to oppose this bad legislation which attempts to solve a problem which simply doesn’t exist.