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With respect to the state of Florida, union leaders have two semi-legitimate points. First, as Florida AFL-CIO legislative and political director Rich Templin claims, unions are being unfairly singled out because Florida does automatic payroll deductions for about 300 other entities, such as charities and insurance companies, some of whose political contributions “dwarf those of organized labor.” Perhaps the solution here is not to re-instate state payroll deductions for unions, but to eliminate them for everyone, something which would undoubtedly save the state money. Second, Florida is a “right to work” state and the Florida Constitution forbids anyone from being forced to join a union. Thus, union leaders contend, anyone who voluntarily joins a union should be subjected to whatever restrictions the union imposes, including mandatory dues collection. This is an understandable argument with one exception: the same worker who perceives the benefits he gains from joining a union, may still be diametrically opposed to the leadership’s political positions.
Union sympathizers are undeterred. “Please don’t put lipstick on this elephant,” said Rep. Janet Cruz (D-Tampa). “This bill is about one thing. It’s about silencing the voices of working men and women.” Yet even if it is, Ms. Cruz omits one critical point: such silence would be voluntarily self-imposed by those union members who opt out of paying their dues. If their “voice” is as important to members as Ms. Cruz contends, it would stand to reason that an overwhelming majority of the membership would continue to support the status quo. If not, it is possible to conclude that members find such a status quo unnecessary–or that they like the idea of being able to bargain with their own leadership far more effectively than is currently possible
As for House Democratic Leader Ron Saunders of Key West’s claim the bill is about “Two words: political payback,” one might remind Mr. Sauders that a similar phrase would be the one used by president Barack Obama three days after his inauguration 2009, when he reminded an assemblage of Republican and Democrat lawmakers from Congress that “elections have consequences” and “I won.”
The Florida Senate version of the House’s HB1021 is SB830, introduced by Sen. John Thrasher (R-Jacksonville). This bill was approved by a 5-4 vote in committee with five Republicans voting in favor, and two Democrats and two Republicans against. It is awaiting two more panels. “We are a right-to-work state, and in a right-to-work state, this bill is not necessary,” said dissenting Republican Paula Dockery. “[The taxpayers] think their resources ought not to be used for political agendas,” countered Thrasher, who claimed those are the complaints he’s hearing from the public.
SB830 may not make it to the Senate floor. Next stop is the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, which consists of nine Republican and four Democratic members. Yet opponents contend that Republicans are not monolithically in support of the legislation, and that it has “anything but a smooth ride” ahead of it.
Like Wisconsin and other states, Florida is battling to get government finances under control. Ironically, its budget deficit is the same $3.6 billion that afflicts Wisconsin, and in February, Governor Rick Scott introduced a plan he called the “nation’s most fiscally conservative,” and “Florida’s first jobs budget” in a state where the unemployment rate is the nation’s third highest at 12 percent, and foreclosure filings rank second. “Things cannot improve until we have more private sector jobs,” Scott said. Such a sentiment is gaining traction all across the nation, and will undoubtedly be a large factor in the 2012 election.
Perhaps elections have–and may have–consequences after all.
Arnold Ahlert is a contributing columnist to the conservative website JewishWorldReview.com.
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