Image of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis "Ron DeSantis" by Gage Skidmore on Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0:

New legislation in Florida will protect the rights of public-sector workers to refrain from joining a union and be free from union boss pressure.

Senate Bill 256 (SB 256) builds on proposed legislation announced by Governor Ron DeSantis in January to create a broader “Teacher’s Bill of Rights.” The bill was introduced by Senator Blaise Ingoglia (R-11) and contains the “paycheck protection” portion of DeSantis’s proposal. It clarifies that public-sector employees, including teachers, “have the right… to refrain from forming, joining, or participating in” a labor union, in addition to the right to join one.

This would be a huge win for Florida workers, and another in the line of pro-worker, job-creating measures championed by Governor DeSantis. From early on, the Governor has been a leader on regulatory reform and occupational licensing reform to make it easier for people to work in the state and start a small business.

If SB 256 passes, beginning in July any public employee who wants to join a union would need to sign a membership authorization form, which is required to contain the following statement defining the rights of workers in Florida:

“The State of Florida is a right-to-work state. Membership or non-membership in a labor union is not required as a condition of employment, and union membership and payment of union dues and assessments are voluntary. Each person has the right to join and pay dues to a labor union or to refrain from joining and paying dues to a labor union. No employees may be discriminated against in any manner for joining and financially supporting a labor union or for refusing to join or financially support a labor union.”

Under the legislation, public-sector unions would be required to have at least 60 percent of eligible employees sign up as dues-paying members, an increase from the current threshold of 50 percent. Unions would need to receive dues payments directly from their members under a prohibition on the automatic deduction of dues from a worker’s salary by a public employer.

These measures put the power back into the hands of workers, and ensure that people who want to serve and contribute to their communities as teachers or in other government roles––but who do not want to join a union––will have that opportunity.

Additionally, pressure campaigns by public-sector labor unions would face new restrictions under the law. Distributions of literature by union activists would be prohibited in areas where the “actual work” of public employees is performed, leading to less workplace disruption and less opportunity for worker intimidation.

The bill also adds penalties for violations of Florida’s public-sector strike prohibition, which could lead to participating unions having their certifications as bargaining agents suspended, their right to collect dues revoked, and up to a $20,000 fine imposed per calendar day of violation as reimbursement to the public for lost services.

Other rules established by the legislation include that public-sector unions must renew their registrations annually; members must be notified annually of the costs of membership; unions must keep their income and expense accounts “open for inspection at all reasonable times” by union members and by the Public Employees Relations Commission; and the annual salary of any union official cannot exceed the highest salary earned by its members.

Florida is the latest of several states to enhance scrutiny of public-sector unionization following the 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision, which established that forced union dues in the public sector constitute a First Amendment violation.

“No American should be forced to join any organization or pay cash to others as a requirement to earn and keep their job. Governor Ron DeSantis is putting workers and taxpayers first by leading on this issue, continuing efforts we have enthusiastically supported to remove barriers to work,” said Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist. “We also applaud Senator Ingoglia for adding this to the long list of pro-taxpayer policy he has supported. It is no surprise both the Senator and Governor Ron DeSantis have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge committing to protect Florida taxpayers.”

No American should be intimidated, manipulated, or misled into joining a labor union. This is particularly true in the public sector, where Big Labor bosses negotiate directly against the interest of the American taxpayer. This new legislation in Florida will provide more choice and more transparency for public-sector employees in the face of union pressure.