Florida’s coming war on collective bargaining for state employees

The following story appeared on the Florida Bulldog site and can be found clicking here.

Florida’s coming war on collective bargaining for state employees

When Miami state Rep. Carlos Trujillo was interviewed on Spanish language radio station Actualidad 1020 he boldly proclaimed that Republicans will ask voters in 2018 to eliminate collective bargaining for state employees from the Florida Constitution.

“It is going to be a nuclear war between the government, the unions, the Republicans and the Democrats,” Trujillo said on the air Sept. 30. “That war is coming.”

Trujillo said a proposed amendment to do away with collective bargaining could be among the proposed constitutional changes that the Constitutional Revision Commission, a 28-member group selected by state elected and judicial officials that convenes every 10 years, will consider in 2017. Possible changes would then be placed on the 2018 ballot.

His comments are a strong indication that the revision commission will be stacked with ultraconservative appointees who are going to try to push through amendments that are not in the best interests of state residents, say union leaders and a Democratic legislator who spoke to FloridaBulldog.org.

“I don’t think it’s bluster,” said state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami). “I think [Trujillo] is totally serious given how extreme the House Republican leadership has been on issues affecting working families.”

“We are not taking [Trujillo’s] comments lightly at all,” added Andy Madtes, executive director of AFSCME Florida, which represents 15,000 government employees. “We are ready to activate thousands of union members to protect their rights. He made the declaration about going to war.”

In a Dec. 21 interview, Trujillo downplayed his on-the-air comments. “I definitely think it is being blown out of proportion,” Trujillo said. “I don’t sit on the Constitutional Revision Commission and I don’t select the people who sit on it.”


However, Gov. Rick Scott, incoming Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli — all Republicans — get to appoint 24 of the 28 commission members. Scott, Negron and Crisafulli can select anyone to serve on the commission, including legislators. Scott also gets to pick the chairman from the 15 people he puts on the commission.

Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi is automatically appointed to the constitutional board. The three remaining members are to be selected by the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Florida with the advice of the other justices. After holding hearings to receive public input, the commission has six months before the 2018 general election to place its proposed amendments on the ballot.

The last time a Constitutional Revision Commission convened, most of its members were appointed by Gov. Lawton Chiles, a Democrat, and Senate president Toni Jennings and House speaker Dan Webster, both Republicans. Democrat Bob Butterworth was attorney general, so both parties were evenly represented on the commission.

In his radio appearance in September, Trujillo was adamant about ending state workers’ ability to collectively bargain salaries. During the interview, show host Roberto Rodriguez-Tejera suggested that private sector employees should unionize in order to get higher minimum wages considering government unions negotiate starting salaries for its members.

Trujillo countered that it would be more effective to eliminate the government unions’ power to negotiate collective bargaining agreements. “We are going to do it,” Trujillo said. “We have the Constitutional Revision Commission that is coming up. It is the opportunity to take things out of the Constitution.”

Yet, Trujillo told FloridaBulldog.org last week that the revision commission has more important issues to tackle, such as term limits for legislators and universal school vouchers. “Those are some things the commission should look at,” he said. “The state is facing much bigger problems than collective bargaining.”

Union leaders remain unconvinced. Trujillo’s comments have “turned into a battle cry for people who want to fight for all Floridians to achieve the American Dream,” said Monica Russo, executive vice president of SEIU Local 1199, which represents more than 22,000 public and private sector healthcare workers. “We are taking his threats very seriously.”