Florida senator wants to carve transit workers out of his anti-union bill

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Photo via News Service of Florida

State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill

Florida Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, filed an amendment Tuesday that would essentially carve public transportation workers out of his bill (SB 256) targeting Florida’s public sector unions.

This comes after Orlando Weekly previously reported that the bill’s passage could risk the loss of over $500 million in federal funds for Florida’s public transit systems in the first year of its implementation alone.  Orlando Weekly reached out to Sen. Ingoglia for comment and will add any response that comes in.

According to the Amalgamated Transit Union, representing 6,000 Florida transit workers, that’s because the SB 256’s proposed requirements and restrictions on public sector unions — such as a ban on automatic union dues deduction and a 60% union membership threshold — could violate employee protections that public transit systems are required to maintain in order to receive federal funds.

Those protections, under the Federal Transit Act, include “the preservation of rights and benefits of employees under existing collective bargaining agreements, the continuation of collective bargaining rights, the protection of individual employees against a worsening of their positions in relation to their employment.”

The state of Utah is facing a similar risk to its federal transit funds, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Last week, Sen. Ingoglia was questioned by colleagues in the Senate about the risk to federal funds posed by his bill. He denied that it would be an issue, but after being pressed by Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo, said he would “double-check.”

The amendment filed Tuesday reads that requirements of SB 256 could be waived “to the extent necessary” if they were to jeopardize a public employer’s continued eligibility to receive Federal Transit Administration funding.

The bill also already exempts unions representing law enforcement, firefighters, corrections staff and probation officers — coincidentally, unions that generally back Republican candidates for office and offer generous donations to their campaign funds.

Sen. Pizzo filed his own amendment Tuesday that offered a similar exemption for transit workers, as well as for emergency medical technicians.

Steve Simon, a wastewater treatment plant operator and business agent for ATU Local 1464 in Tampa, and Dwight Mattingly of ATU Local 1577 in Palm Beach (who previously warned lawmakers about the bill’s risk to federal transit funds) declined to comment for this story.

But this bill isn’t new. Similar legislation has been introduced by Republican lawmakers since at least 2011, when it was then-Rep. Matt Gaetz leading the charge. Last year’s version was narrowly defeated, dying in the Senate after gaining approval from the Florida House of Representatives.

This year’s legislation has been condemned by Florida’s organized labor, with dozens of union members from across the state (including self-described Republicans) traveling to Tallahassee to speak against it, arguing it violates their rights and freedoms as workers. 

The International Brotherhood of the Teamsters, representing 200,000 public employees across North America, condemned the bill Tuesday, describing it in a statement as “legislation crafted to destroy public sector unions.”

SB 256, and its twin in the Florida House, have advanced largely along party lines, with Republicans in favor, Democrats opposed.

The bill is expected to be heard by the full GOP-dominated Florida Senate on Wednesday. Its equivalent is currently stuck in the Florida House State Affairs Committee.

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