Two Florida teachers unions face decertification when fail meet 50% dues threshold under new law

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Two independent Florida teachers unions are facing decertification under a new state law requiring at least 50% of “instructional personnel” in a school district opt to pay union dues, according to The Center Square. The law is part of a nationwide “workers’ voting rights trend,” according to one expert.

Florida law prohibits employees from being forced to join labor organizations or to pay dues to be represented by unions for collective bargaining.

The two organizations that failed to meet the 50% threshold, as reported by The Center Square (TCS), were the Jefferson County Education Association [JCEA] and the Santa Rosa Professional Educators [SRPE].

JCEA did not “file any information after the Florida Board of Education mandated that it be operated by Somerset Academy, a nonprofit charter school company, as part of a five-year ‘turnaround plan’ for the ‘failing’ district,” TCS noted.

SRPE’s certification was revoked after reporting only 644 of 2,055 district “instructional” employees were paying union dues, revealed TCS.

The SRPE organization is in the process of applying for recertification, having collected “interest cards” from 690 employees. “We are applying for recertification. It will go for a vote,” SRPE Executive Director Anna Neese told TCS on Monday. “This is something that [teachers’ unions] will have to do every year, across the state, wherever [dues-paying membership] is below 50 percent.”

Michael Hargraves, attorney for SRPE said the new state statute, HB 7055, requires a union must apply for re-certification, to include conducting a vote in which members and non-members in a school district agree the union can represent them in collective bargaining.

TCS provided background on the issues that resulted in the Florida law …

Morgan Shields, legal counsel and director of Workers for Opportunity with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, Mich., said Florida’s HB 7055 is part of a nationwide “workers’ voting rights trend.”

“People are learning even when they get out of the union, even when a majority are not in the union, the unions are still representing them,” she told The Center Square.

According to a study by James Sherk, former research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, the vast majority of union members have never voted for which union would represent them.

Only 7 percent of private sector union members were employed when their workplace was organized. The other 93 percent “inherited” their unions, Sherk writes.

Before the passage of HB 7055, Florida teachers unions would only have to certify once and then would remain in place indefinitely.

Richard Corcoran, who was Florida House Speaker in 2018 and is now the state’s Education Commissioner, supported HB 7055, saying that teachers unions were more involved in their own self-serving pursuits than in the best interests of members, both paying and non-paying, TCS reported.

Shields told TCS that similar laws exist in Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin, which permits all public employees – not just school district workers – the right to regularly vote to determine which union will best represent them.

The new law in Florida is not yet a settled matter as the Florida Education Association [FEA] is challenging it in a lawsuit. FEA, representing more than 140,000 teachers, higher education faculty, and educational staff, filed the lawsuit in June 2018, claiming it is a “union-busting” measure unfairly targeting teachers, reported TCS.

FEA Chief of Staff Martin Powell told The Center Square that a summary judgment in the lawsuit is expected this summer.

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