Republicans’ bill HB 1445, in the Florida Legislature, attacks a worker’s right to organize, which is enshrined in the state Constitution. It prohibits certain union members from voluntarily having their union dues deducted from their paychecks, imposes a 60% paid membership requirement, makes the recertification process more difficult and generally weakens workers’ freedom to organize.
But it only does this for some unions — those out of favor with the GOP.
While the bill’s sponsor tried to spin it as good for unions and claimed it promotes “transparency, accountability and integrity,” the bill’s exceptions belie those assertions. If the bill is good for unions, why would it carve out an exception for police, fire and correctional officers’ unions?
Because the bill has nothing to do with transparency, accountability or integrity. Rather, it is all about political punishment.
HB 1445 is a thinly veiled attack on unions that dared to stand up for their rights during the pandemic. Teachers’ unions are an obvious example: Teachers, and nonpartisan school boards organized to protect themselves and our children in their care, supporting safety measures until we got a handle on COVID-19. Since then, we’ve seen right-wing retaliation against teachers and school boards, including financial retaliation from the governor to the tune of $2 million.
Even if political payback is likely the reason for targeting teachers’ unions, why punish nurses’ unions? Nurses worked around the clock to keep us alive during the pandemic, at great personal cost to themselves and their families. Nurses, like my mother, are the professionals who care for us and our loved ones when we are most vulnerable healthwise. Perhaps the nurses’ unions were not invited to the closed-door negotiations that kept the male-dominated unions carved out of the bill, for now.
As a civil-rights attorney, I cannot help but note that by singling out the teachers’ and the nurses’ unions, HB 1445 targets those dominated by women, codifying structural sexism. By creating an exception for the unions dominated by men, the GOP creates a skewed system that weakens the organizing power of the unions whose membership is predominantly women.
Regardless of the intent, this union-busting bill will disproportionately hurt women workers, thereby discriminating against them.
Why should you and I, who may not be part of a union, care? We can thank unions for the five-day work week, for a living wage, for sick days and vacation time. We can thank unions for ending child labor and fighting for safety standards. Put simply, we can thank unions for building America’s middle class. In a time when fascism is gaining ground in Florida, it is imperative that we protect institutions like unions that serve as a buttress for our representative democracy.
The Florida Senate has already passed the bill, so it will soon come to the House for a vote. Urge them to stand up for the right to organize and to reject HB 1445. If you’re unsure about who your elected officials are, go to myfloridahouse.gov/FindYourRepresentative.
We should stand up for all of our first responders, who work tirelessly to safeguard our communities every day.
State Rep. Dotie Joseph represents District 108 in Miami-Dade County.