Controversy over “teachers’ freedom” to be members of unions

The law, if passed as currently envisioned, would eliminate the automatic deduction of union dues from public school teachers’ paychecks, meaning teachers would have to self-opt for membership. from the guild and pay those stipends.

The president of the Labor union of Miami-Dade Teachers, Karla Hernández-Mats, told DIARIO LAS AMÉRICAS that she considers the aforementioned initiative “anti-liberties and anti-rights”, to which she added that, both in Florida and in other states of the country, “it is not mandatory to belong to a union.

DeSantis anticipated his endorsement of the proposal during a speech last week in Orlando, describing it as legislation that “maximizes freedom of choice” and “a more accurate reflection of who really wants to be a part of this or not.”

“It’s more of a guarantee that that money will actually go to those teachers,” DeSantis said. “It is not going to be wasted by interest groups that get involved in the school system. And I think those will be very, very positive reforms, and we’re looking forward to doing that. And I think we’re going to get a lot of support in the Legislature.”

Under such a proposal, teachers would have to pay union dues separately and not have them deducted directly from their pay stubs.

In recent years, the state Congress has considered similar proposals, but they have not been approved. One bill (HB 1197) during the 2022 session passed the House, but was not adopted by the Senate.

Unions and the Democratic Party have opposed these initiatives, arguing that they could make it more difficult for unions to finance.

Republican DeSantis also noted that he supports establishing a “threshold” for unions to represent teachers, which would imply that at least 50% of educators are union members to be certified.

“If they don’t have the majority of the teachers that are actually signing up to pay the fees, they should decertify,” DeSantis said. “You shouldn’t be able to continue as a zombie organization, which doesn’t have the support of the people you’re negotiating for.”

The Florida Education Association and other teachers unions endorsed Charlie Crist, DeSantis’s Democratic challenger in the Nov. 8 election, who was running mate with the president of the Miami-Dade Teachers Union.

union position

Hernández-Mats referred to a 2018 concept by the US Supreme Court, which ruled that “non-union government workers cannot be required to pay union dues as a condition of working in public service.”

That means, according to the leader of the teachers’ union in Miami-Dade, that “there is no obligation to belong to a union, and this is something that has always existed in the state of Florida, for many years before that ruling. of the Court”.

He added that if the DeSantis-supported “restriction measure” was “good,” it would also [el titular de Tallahassee] he would be “extending it to firefighters and police officers. But not. We see that he is proposing an anti-liberties and anti-rights proposal only for teachers”.

According to his analysis, the legislative initiative could “aggravate” the “teacher shortage and exodus” to other occupations, as was observed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, he defended the function carried out by unions to guarantee the “working conditions of teachers”, but also “educational quality in the classrooms”. He highlighted the “bad pay” received by public school teachers and staff.

Hernández-Mats assured that the bill would have as a background “a political revenge”, which would dismiss the “possibility” of “fixing” and “listening to a teacher [ella]who was saying the things that are needed in Florida” during the political campaign for the governorship.

On the appreciation of DeSantis, of “wasting” money on “interest groups”, the union leader indicated that the union under her charge invested around a million dollars to promote the referendum in November because it will improve wages and security of teachers in the county.

partisan elections

Another proposal emanating from the Republican Party in Florida, which has already generated controversy and will be debated in the state Congress in 2023, is committed to giving candidates for school board positions the opportunity to run as members of a political party.

Fresh off an election in which DeSantis-backed candidates won 25 of 30 school board seats, Republican state Rep. Spencer Roach introduced a new proposal to make races for seats on those county school system legislatures partisans.

Senator Joe Gruters, a Sarasota native who chairs the state Republican Party, filed a measure in Tallahassee that has the same objective to try to win approval in both chambers.

If authorized by state legislators, the proposal would need approval by at least 60% of voters in 2024 because it would be a constitutional amendment. At this time, races for school board seats cannot be partisan, according to Florida’s charter.

Supporters of the bill argue that the measure would allow voters to make “more informed decisions” because they would be clear about where the candidates stand on certain issues of interest.

Opponents of the initiative argue that allowing those committee elections to be partisan would open up the possibility of “politicizing education” and could lead to more divisive and acrimonious campaigns.