Union News: AFSCME Council 79 Decertified

If you’ll remember, last spring on stream we discussed the impending passing of Florida Senate bill SB256. This bill related to public sector employees and their ability to maintain their union representation. You can read the enacted form of this bill — and the rest of the statues applying to public employee labor organizations — on this website; the relevant section for today’s update is section 6.

During the debates and discussions about this bill, as it made its way through the Senate and House, it was constantly remarked that this bill may be in violation of the Florida State Constitution. Additionally, that it may be in violation of United States Code 49 as it relates to public transit employees who receive grant money from the Federal Transit Authority. The Senator responsible for advancing this bill in the Senate — Senator Ingoglia of District 11 (Citrus, Sumter, Hernando, and portions of Pasco county) — attempted to reassure Senators and Representatives that should any union lose their certification they would not lose their collective bargaining rights, language which was not included in the bill.

To be clear, I am not a lawyer nor am I in government or directly affiliated with AFSCME. This is all my interpretation based on watching the debates, tracking the bill as it passed through both chambers, and researching independently.

With the history of this bill out of the way, let’s discuss what happened. First, as predicted by the labor unions when the bill was being discussed, many bargaining units have now been decertified by PERC. Among them were all 200 bargaining units of AFSCME Council 79 as they were unable to hit the required 60% of members paying dues. This essentially means that all public sector workers in Florida have lost their collective bargaining rights and contracts.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that since the passage of SB256, AFSCME and other unions across the state have challenged the constitutionality of this legislation. On May 9, 2023 they entered a complaint against PERC and requested an injunction against the enactment of Section 3 of SB256 — the section that removes automatic deductions of dues from membership employees paychecks. The injunction was not granted, which may have severely hurt the union’s chances of hitting the required 60% dues paying membership.

Since then, PERC has applied to dismiss AFSCME et al.’s claims. As I am not a lawyer and don’t speak fluent legalese, I will try to get straight to the point. On October 3, 2023 Judge Marsh granted in part and denied in part PERC’s motion to dismiss AFSCME et al.’s claims. You can read his decision here.

The good news is that while this defeats half of their argument, the stronger argument was in the claim that was dismissed with prejudice. For those who also don’t speak fluent legalese, “with prejudice” in this context means that AFSCME et al. are allowed to amend their argument and resubmit for judgment. This claim is the one that asserts that SB256 violates the Florida State Constitution. As of now, AFSCME et al. have submitted their amended motion, have changed legal council, and PERC is asking for an extended deadline (until February 22, 2024) to respond to the motion.

If you’d like to follow the proceedings yourself, you can do so at the Leon County Clerk of Courts website. The case is listed as “2023 CA 001492: Miami Beach Municipal Employees AFSCME Local 1554 vs The Public Employees Relations Commission.”

Additionally, though I admittedly know far less about this case AFSCME Local 47 and Local 1215 in Wisconsin are also mounting the legal case against The Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission. As far as I can tell, not much action has been taken on the case, but you can read their motion here and follow along through the Dane County Clerk of Courts.

Lastly, if you’re a municipal, state, or county employee currently employed in Florida, join AFSCME and pay your dues! This money is used to protect your rights as a worker in the state. Additionally, tell your coworkers! The more everyone works together, the harder it is for them to strip our rights.

Should any other major updates happen, I will try to update with the information in a timely manner. The fight isn’t over yet.