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Florida Labor Groups Band Together After SCOTUS Ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME is unlikely to have a direct impact on unionized employees of private businesses, because the First Amendment restricts government action and not private conduct. (Pixabay)
The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME is unlikely to have a direct impact on unionized employees of private businesses, because the First Amendment restricts government action and not private conduct. (Pixabay)
June 28, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Opponents of Wednesday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling freeing government workers from having to pay into unions are using Florida as an example of how bad it could be for working families across the country.

The court's 5-to-4 decision upends a 41-year-old ruling that allowed states to require that public employees pay some fees to unions that represent them, even if the workers choose not to join.

The decision doesn't impact the Sunshine State because of a right to work law that makes paying collective bargaining fees voluntary.

Mike Williams, president of the Florida AFL-CIO, says the state already was crippling working families with low wages, and now the rest of the country will feel the same.

"It continues our nation's long race to the bottom for workers' rights,” he states. “It increases economic inequality and makes it even more difficult for America's workers to make ends meet. "

Meanwhile, conservatives are praising the ruling as a victory for workers and their First Amendment Rights, arguing union fees were being used to fund political activities.

Limiting the power of public unions has long been a goal of conservative groups. Six states have passed right-to-work laws since 2012, and Williams says he's seen the impacts.

Florida's government has more than 81,000 positions represented by a labor union, but fewer than 10 percent of employees are dues paying members.

"I've got to tell you, in right-to-work states like Florida, we've lived this decision pretty much every day in a system that undermines freedom to have a voice on the job, be paid less, less access to health care, and less opportunities to retire with dignity," he states.

The court based its ruling on the First Amendment, saying that requiring payments to unions that negotiate with the government forces workers to endorse political messages that may be at odds with their beliefs.

Williams contends collective bargaining is different, and if a worker reaps the benefit from collective bargaining, he or she should pay.

Williams adds the union's more than 1 million members will stand together and continue to fight for working families.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL