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Florida: Is a 10% membership rate enough support to justify bargaining for 100% of a workforce?

March 24, 2017 | by Karin Sweigart

Only about 7% of Florida’s total workforce and 10% of state workers belong to a union, but does membership serve as an accurate measure of support? Florida unions say no, but some Florida lawmakers say yes.

Florida state legislator Scott Plakon has proposed House Bill 11, which would require that any union with membership below 50% of eligible employees would have to be recertified in order to be recognized by the state.  For employees represented by a union with membership less than 50% employees would have the choice to a) keep their union, b) choose alternative representation, or c) forgo the union all together. 

Plakon argues the bill promotes transparency and democracy. Chris Hudson, state director for American’s for Prosperity, stated, “[w]e need to ensure that all unions are operating in the sunshine and that they garner at least a 50 percent plus one support to justify their claims to represent millions of Florida workers.”

But opponents of the bill paint a decidedly different picture. “I think it’s very clear that this bill is about politics, not about policy,” Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, said. “This bill is about union-busting, plain and simple.” The bill contains a carveout for the state’s first-responders, and critics say time is being wasted on a measure that has no chance of passing.

Rich Templin, the legislative and political director for the Florida AFL-CIO, argued lawmakers shouldn’t be equating the paying of money with support for a cause. “I would challenge each of you to go back to your own districts,” Templin told the House members, “can you guarantee me right now that you have contributions from over 50 percent of the voters that you are here representing — which is what the labor organizations are being asked to do?” Ironically, Plakon’s bill would for all practical purposes put unions in the same place as lawmakers, having to regularly run for reelection to show they still have public support.