Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, on Monday sold his bill that would prohibit payroll deduction of union dues for public workers and require annual approval to use dues for political purposes as one that will "empower" union members. That claim prompted derision from union leaders and Democrats, but the bill was approved by the Republican-heavy House Appropriations committee. It now heads to the House floor. Sen. John Thrasher, R-Jacksonville, is sponsoring similar legislation in the Senate.
Dorworth said he doesn't believe governments should be in the business of handling payroll deductions for union dues. That can be taken care of by private vendors, he said. And the written approval for political expenditures, he said, gives individual union members control over how their money is spent.
Democrats criticized the move as politically motivated and a waste of time.
"How many jobs is it going to create? How is it going to reduce our deficit? What is the public good that's going to be served by this bill?" asked Franklin Sands, a Democrat from Weston who earned applause for calling Dorworth's proposal a "union busting" bill.
House Democratic leaders Ron Saunders from Key West pledged to make a stink about the politics at play when the bill comes up for debate on the House floor. "Why are we here on a bill that is supposedly to protect union members and not a single union member has spoken in support of it," Saunders said. "I don't see the reason for this bill."
Indeed, as has happened as the proposal has been discussed in recent weeks, several union members exprssed outrage and disgust for the measure.
"I don't know who everyone thinks the union is. The union is the membership. They vote to take positions. They vote to spend their money on things. And if they don't want to, they opt out of it," said Lisa Henning, legislative director for the state Fraternal Order of Police. The bill, she said, "is a true blue attempt at shutting us up."
Others called attention to the bill's staff analysis, which concluded it would be more difficult for unions to collect dues.