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Senate Bill 256 will affect public sector union members, which include healthcare workers and more than 150,000 teachers.

Republican senators passed a bill that some workers describe as anti-union and was met with strong opposition from unions across the state.

SB 256 will affect public sector union members, a group which includes healthcare workers and more than 150,000 teachers. The legislation excludes unions representing cops, firefighters, corrections officers, and probation officers.

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One of the most criticized points of the proposal is that public sector unions would need to maintain a membership of at least 60% of the employees to remain certified and, therefore, maintain any contract they have with an employer.

This would put unions in trouble, because Florida is a right-to-work state, so employees of a unionized workplace don’t need to sign up for union membership in order to get the benefits of a union contract.

That policy makes it hard for unions to reach 60% membership. According to Orlando Weekly, for example, at least 45 teachers’ unions didn’t reach it last year. 

In the event the union does not reach that goal, it will face the risk of decertification and therefore the dissolution of the union contract, if it’s not able to recertify. 

Workers will risk losing benefits such as wage increases, retirement benefits, healthcare costs, family leave, paid time off, and vacation time because it could be nullified.

The bill also bans automatic paycheck deductions for union dues for the public sector bargaining units.

Democrat senators opposed the bill and were joined by five Republicans, who crossed party lines to vote against it.

Sen. Shevrin Jones (D-West Park) said Senate Republicans were wrong to target teachers and healthcare workers.

“These are the same people who when your families were in need during COVID, they stepped up and took care of you. If this is how we say thank you to them, shame on us,” Jones said.

Unions have also warned the state risks over $500 million in federal funds for public transit systems, including $43 million in the Orlando area, because transit systems need to maintain certain employee protections in order for them to receive the federal grants they apply for.

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The bill is not yet ready for Gov. DeSantis’ signature, because the House is still evaluating its version.

The North Central Florida Central Labor Council, a coalition of several labor unions, is encouraging its members to call their representatives to ask them to vote against the bill. 

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