Last week, the Florida Chamber of Commerce started airing radio ads raising the specter of large-scale union protests in Florida.
“We’ve seen the images on television: government unions from around America staging protests in Wisconsin,” warns Chamber chief Mark Wilson, adding: “Florida is next on the union bosses’ hit list.”
He goes on to accuse unions of transporting protesters to “harass” Central Florida’s legislative Republicans.
During a Monday conference call hosted by the Florida Education Association, Tallahassee attorney Ron Meyer explained why what happened in Madison, Wis., won’t be happening here.
Florida’s public-sector unions aren’t allowed to strike, or to hold an organized “work stoppage” of just about any kind, he said. Teachers who show up in Tallahassee this week will be doing so on their own leave time, or using their spring breaks to let lawmakers know their thoughts on pension changes, budget cuts, Senate Bill 736, or proposals that would weaken public-sector unions.
Under Florida statutes, if they camped out at the Capitol for days on end instead of reporting for work, they could face fines for themselves and their unions, or risk losing their pensions, Meyer said.
That doesn’t mean the union will be “rolling over,” he added, but it does mean there likely won’t be tens of thousands of teachers swarming the state capitol. The state’s teachers will have to bring the noise after hours, on weekends, or during leave periods approved by their employers.
“Teachers are mad, don’t make any mistake about that,” he said. “But first of all, they’re going to be professionals.”
PolitiFact rates the Chamber’s claim that unions were busing protesters in to Central Florida “Pants on Fire.”