Labor unions in Florida are scrambling to boost membership numbers after Senate Bill 256 went into effect on July 1. The bill, which was signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in May, includes provisions such as disabling unions’ ability to deduct dues from employee paychecks, auditing unions’ finances, and requiring union recertification if union membership falls below 60%. The law set an October deadline for unions to reach the 60% threshold or face a recertification election.
Supporters of recertification cite the ability for government employees to have a say in which union represents them at the bargaining table. Recertification is a process by which members of a bargaining unit are able to vote on which, if any, union represents them in the workplace.
AFFT previously reported the details about the law and the initial reactions of union officials.
Karla Hernandez-Mats, vice president of United Teachers of Dade, called the law the “most egregious, most anti-union bill ever proffered in the entire United States history” and said its passage should have been “national news.” She said that the law created an “uphill battle” for unions like hers, to the point that the union’s office sits empty as staffers are working outside to recruit new members.
When asked about membership numbers, AFSCME Local 199 President Se’Adoria Brown told local media, “Are we at 60%? No. I can’t give you a definitive number.” Brown added, “It’s kind of like do or die, because this law is ultimately an attack on working class people.”
Brown also criticized “piggybacking” non-members. “The days of piggybacking is long gone, because if there’s no union contract, it’s nothing for any of us to piggyback off of,” she said.
Other union supporters claimed that “decertification” would be catastrophic for workers by potentially losing benefits such as paid holidays and sick leave payout; AFFT did not find evidence to back those claims.
Union supporters’ use of the term decertification is deceptive because the Florida law includes union recertification, not decertification. Decertification is the process which withdraws the official recognition of a union’s status as the exclusive representative of the bargaining unit.
“Florida’s recertification requirement doesn’t automatically remove unions—it makes them stand for re-election,” said AFFT Special Counsel David Osborne. “It’s only fair that public employees should get to vote on who represents them, and democracy would force union officials to reassess their model and prove their value to public employees,” he said.
Overall, it is estimated that only 23 out of 65 total teachers unions in Florida passed the 60% threshold in 2022, while the rest varied from as low as 36% to 59%.
Teachers unions in Florida have about three months to meet the October 2023 deadline, which could spell trouble for the 42 teachers unions that need to close the gap to reach the required threshold.