Nothing, according to the sponsor of a measure that would make it more difficult for public employee unions to collect dues, which cleared its first Senate panel Monday. A representative of the Florida Chamber of Commerce disagreed.
The bill would end the practice of allowing unions to deduct dues from employee paychecks and make it more difficult for public union money to be used for political purposes, by requiring employees to specifically approve the use of their dues for political expenditures.
State Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine said the goal of the bill is to get the state out of the business of “facilitating” political activity by unions.
Maj. Graham Fountain of the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, who spoke in support of the measure, made a similar argument, noting that before he rose to the ranks of management, he had worked alongside union members. Union coercion isn’t much of a problem in Florida, a right-to-work state, Graham said.
“That has nothing to do with it,” Thrasher agreed.
Adam Babbington, of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, did raise concerns about employee coercion. He said the business group had been hearing from employees who felt intimidated.
State Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, said he had never heard that sort of complaint from his constituents, nor from any of the workers who had spoken before the committee. Why would they take their grievances to the Chamber? Ring said he wanted to know if that was even possible.
Babington had attempted to waive his testimony in support of the measure, but Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, called on someone from the business community to explain its support for the bill.
Babington argued that the state does not deduct funds automatically from the incorporation fees paid by businesses to pay their membership dues for associations like the Chamber.
Dockery voted against the measure (which passed), as did Jim Norman, R-Tampa., saying they didn’t want to meddle with state employees’ personal decisions. Norman said he didn’t want lawmakers “sticking our hand in trying to deal with other people’s money.”