On April 16, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees took to the streets of Tampa to demonstrate against SB 1014 and HB 835. These are two anti-union bills filed in the Senate and the House of Representatives, respectively.
The two bills follow a template outlined by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing think tank comprised primarily of conservative state legislators and private-sector representatives.
ALEC is known for their “model bills,” laws drafted centrally and disseminated to multiple independent legislatures. It has successfully passed hundreds of these bills since 2010, such as stand-your-ground and anti-whistleblower laws.
One member of AFSCME, Marc Rodrigues, talked about how the bills weaken public-sector unions by preventing them from automatically collecting dues. Dues are an important aspect of any union, allowing them to negotiate contracts and to support the workers that comprise the collective bargaining unit.
Additionally, Florida is a “right-to-work” state, which makes the problems faced by AFSCME and many other unions throughout the state especially dire. Right-to-work laws have nothing to do with ensuring the right to a job, but rather, are designed to weaken unions by making it so more workers can reap the benefits of a union contract without paying union dues.
When asked what Florida’s new anti-labor bills mean for the struggle for worker’s rights, Rodrigues said, “[T]his struggle highlights the need for union workers to be more militant, to explore different options.”