In yet another example of legislative leaders using their budget document to adopt legislation they can't pass on the floor, budget negotiators tonight have agreed to include a provision in the budget that paves the way for a ban on union dues for several state worker unions. The measure was offered by the House, and accepted by the Senate, with no explanation and no discussion. Update here.
The so-called "paycheck protection" bill has been on hold in the Senate all week as its sponsor, Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, failed to get enough votes to pass it. By last count, there were 24 votes against it in the 40-member Senate. But budget negotiators found a way to make sure that if it does pass it would take immediate affect by including a measure into the budget through their collective bargaining language and it was offered by the House, agreed to by the Senate, and there was no explanation or discussion.
Because the Legislature has the authority to resolve any impasse over wage concessions with unions, lawmakers want to use the governor's recent impasse with several unions to allow him to force the ban on unions using payroll deduction to collect union dues. The governor could take the union's ability to have dues check-off out of their contract, union members said, and they could lose that benefit.
State law now allows unions to use dues deduction for state workers but, union officials said, there has never been an impasse on a dues deduction issue. By attaching it to the budget conforming bill, legislators ordered the governor, and his negotiators, to vacate the union dues deduction provision in their contracts -- something the governor has tried to do during contract negotiations with several unions since he took office this year.
Legislators argue that unions have the legal right to make the deductions until legislators outlaw the payroll deduction provision, but some union members fear that by vacating the provision they will not be able to negotiate that as part of their collective bargaining -- effectively preventing them from dues deductions just as if the law had passed.
Because the change is not a change in law, it would not affect teachers, police and firefighters who are members of municipal unions.
Rep. Mike Horner, who's on budget committee, acknowledged the bill opens the door to eliminating payroll deduction for union dues but denied doing this as an end-run around the legislation. "We're doing this in case we pass paycheck protection. But we didn't put paycheck protection in a conforming bill," he said.
“They have to resort to behind-closed-door deals to accomplish what they can’t get done in the open,’’ said Mike Williams, president of the AFL-CIO, whose union is one of several at currently impasse with the state over wages and benefits agreements with state workers. "It's an abuse of the system.''
It is included in the House offer to the Senate tonight in the conforming bill related to collective bargaining.
Williams said that rarely does the state and labor organization come to agreement without coming to an impasse, so he predicts that if this provisions stays in law, the future strategy in all collective bargaining negotiations will be to force all negotiations to impasse and then have the legislature settle it and ban all union dues check offs.
He said that if lawmakers think they can divide the coalition of labor groups by targeting just state workers in this provision, they are wrong. "The coalition is are steadfast in focusing on a unified front,'' he said.
When Scott came into office the state was at impasse over wage concessions with several unions, including PBA (highway safety), nurses and AFSCME. Because state law allows legislators to resolve any impasse through their budget negotiations, this bill was filed. The state amended its offer to the unions to eliminate dues check off as a benefit. The union rejected it and now the Legislature, through its power to settle any impasse, proposes eliminating it for the next budget year.