Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Tuesday that he signed a major piece of legislation aimed at weakening public sector unions by making it harder for them to collect dues from members.
Senate Bill 256 forbids most unions representing government employees from having dues deducted directly from workers’ paychecks. It also requires that affected unions maintain at least 60% membership in their bargaining units, or else they could face decertification and lose their contracts.
The new law will force public sector unions to develop new ways of getting dues from members — such as setting up electronic bank transfers — and will also imperil the existence of those unions that don’t meet the 60% threshold.
Although DeSantis and other Republicans have cast the bill as “paycheck protection” for workers, they excluded unions representing police, firefighters and corrections officers — i.e., the unions that are typically more likely to support Republicans. The unions that are subject to the law tend to represent teachers, sanitation workers and other government employees.
“This new law grossly oversteps in trying to silence teachers, staff, professors and most other public employees.”
– Andrew Spar, the president of the Florida Education Association
Florida Republicans had tried for years to get versions of the legislation through both the state House and Senate before succeeding for the first time in 2023. The carve-out for police and firefighter unions likely helped the bill’s conservative supporters get it over the finish line.
Florida unions have blasted the legislation as a naked power grab meant to limit workers’ bargaining power and hurt the governor’s political enemies ahead of his expected 2024 presidential campaign.
“The goal of the bill is to eliminate collective bargaining for public-sector workers who the governor doesn’t like,” Rich Templin, the director of politics and public policy at the Florida AFL-CIO labor federation, told HuffPost last month. “Nobody that’s directly involved has asked for this. This is another in a very long line of policies being advanced solely for the governor’s run for the White House.”
DeSantis had previously voiced support for the legislation but only as it related to teachers unions, which form a potential obstacle to the governor’s so-called anti-woke education agenda. He praised the bill again Tuesday and kept the focus on teachers, despite the legislation affecting public sector workers of all kinds.
DeSantis said that many educators feel “pressure” to have their union dues deducted from their paychecks.
“What this bill does is it protects them,” he claimed, though he did not explain why police, firefighters and corrections officers don’t deserve these supposed protections.
Andrew Spar, the president of the Florida Education Association, said in a statement Tuesday that it was “painfully ironic” for DeSantis to sign the legislation during national Teacher Appreciation Week.
“This new law grossly oversteps in trying to silence teachers, staff, professors and most other public employees,” Spar said. “We will not go quietly — our students and our professions are simply too important.”