Could Legislation Targeting Public-Sector Unions Threaten Academic Freedom?

The bill would change the way union dues and fees are collected for certain public employees in Florida. File photo: Burlingham, Shutter Stock, licensed.

TALLAHASSEE FL – Union leaders and public sector workers say bills moving forward in the Florida Legislature, if passed, would take away their representation and could do the same for academic freedom.

Speaking to the committee last week, Florida State University associate professor of religion Joseph Hellweg said he used to recruit for his union — the United Faculty of Florida — and heard a variety of reasons why some of his colleagues weren’t paying their dues. chose to do

He said he disagrees with Proposal that would require 60% instead of 50% workers Eligible dues paying members to represent the union so that the union remains certified.

Hellweg said, “You will essentially be attacking the liberties of workers, not defending them.” “And I fear that one of the reasons this bill is in fact reducing academic freedom by eliminating tenure, which might be the only reason tenure exists since the UFF.”

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State Sen. Blaise Ingoglia – R-Spring Hill – sponsors the bill, which would also remove the automatic deduction of dues from union member paychecks – claiming it would encourage face-to-face negotiations with their union representatives .

Opponents have also criticized the bill because the changes do not apply to unions for law enforcement, correctional officers, probation officers or firefighters.

Andrew Sparr, president of the Florida Education Association, said Senate Bill 256 limits teachers’ freedom, and believes Gov. Ron DeSantis is retaliating against those who speak out.

“Being that group of individuals who speak up for the students, they have become a target,” Spar said. “This governor has made it clear, he targets anyone he believes is in his way or anyone who speaks against what he wants to do.”

Proposals are no stranger to union advocates. This is the latest version of similar legislation that has been introduced by Florida lawmakers since at least 2011.

The difference is that Republicans control both chambers in Florida, so it is expected to pass.

The proposals could affect more than 150,000 working people in Florida who are represented by unions.

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