State workers say they will welcome a change in the governor’s office.

Labor leaders say the state’s 162,000 employees, and wage earners in general, have suffered through eight years of Gov. Rick Scott’s administration.

“(Scott’s) legacy is poor for many reasons,” said Marshall Ogletree, executive director of the United Faculty of Florida.

“Between him and the Legislature there is not a good record there – especially in health care but across the board,” said Ogletree. “There hasn’t been a real increase in funding or any funding that supports necessary programs.”

A spokesman for the governor's office countered that Scott appreciates state employees' hard work and recognizes "their achievements every day."

“Governor Scott was proud to provide raises for state workers both in 2013 and 2017 as well as the pay raises he has championed for Florida’s brave state law enforcement. Under Governor Scott’s leadership, Florida has built the most efficient state government workforce in the nation...” said McKinley Lewis.

Gov. Rick Scott signs a bill into law that gave state workers a pay raise in 2017.Buy Photo

Gov. Rick Scott signs a bill into law that gave state workers a pay raise in 2017. (Photo: Joe Rondone/Democrat)

A review of the Department of Management Services Annual Workforce reports reveal state employees are making about $5,000 a year less in constant dollars than what they earned when Scott became governor.

Also, there are 5,594 fewer employees to handle the administrative and other needs of a state that has seen its population grow by more than 2 million people since Scott took office.

“He’s a bad boss,” said Jana Weaver, executive director of AFSCME, which represents about 52,000 workers in collective bargaining negotiations with the state.

As an employer, Scott favored merit-pay raises in place of across-the-board hikes but he did sign a pay increase for all workers in 2017. He also signed a raise for workers in 2013, but it was offset by a new rule requiring state workers to contribute to their pensions.

"People who work in state government are on a mission," Scott said last June at a bill signing ceremony. "They are trying to do their job well. So, I think we got to make sure we pay them well."

Weaver was unimpressed.

“He doesn’t invest in his workers – one pay raise in his eight years as governor,” Weaver continued. “And now, there are not enough of them to really do the job. And he and the people he appoints do not show people respect.”  

Weaver works out of Miami-Dade and while talking on the phone one can hear the rustling of papers before she mentions a Miami Herald investigative report that found managers had been replaced at the Department of Revenue by individuals who lacked tax administration experience, didn’t submit resumes but apparently were close to Scott.

Weaver said  many employees stay with the state because they have a "passion for what they do and believe in public service" but she described a workforce simmering with frustration out of a lack of respect for their professional expertise. 

The wages and working conditions for state workers have already become a campaign issue in the Democratic primary.

"We'll go from a governor who forbids state workers to even say the words 'climate change,' to a new governor who invites state workers to be the change — change for the better for the people of Florida," said former Congresswoman Gwen Graham. 

from the right; Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Miami

from the right; Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, and businessman Chris King listen to the moderator during the first gubernatorial debate in the Democratic primary, Wednesday, April 18, 2018 in Tampa, Fla. (WTVT Fox 13 via AP, Pool) (Photo: AP)

Graham is in a statistical tie with former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine for the lead in the primary. Levine said on the campaign trial he's heard about workers feeling unappreciated and being shortchanged on raises and healthcare.  

"Worse, the governor has given them a lack of purpose and no excitement to be part of Team Florida," said Levine. "I will change that immediately. We will ensure that our state employees are treated with respect, are given fair compensation and have clear purpose and pride to work for the state."

Graham and Levine lead Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King in the polls. Labor is part of the Democratic coalition and all four candidates are making pitches to workers for support.

Former Mimi Beach Mayor and Democratic gubernatorialBuy Photo

Former Mimi Beach Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine speaks at Tuesday's meeting of the Tiger Bay Club at the Tucker Civic Center. (Photo: Hali Tauxe/Democrat)

The frustration Weaver talks about is something Gillum has seen as a neighbor and as a public official. Tallahassee is home to about 19,000 state workers.  Union leaders says thousands of employees are nearing retirement age and working conditions are such they question whether the state can now recruit people to replace those leaving the workforce.  

It’s more than a campaign issue for Mayor Gillum, the state payroll pumps about $28 million into the Tallahassee economy every two weeks.

“When, I’m governor, state workers and organized labor will have a seat at the table, instead of being on the menu,” said Gillum.

King also pledged to hold open a “seat at the table” for organized labor. King said Scott’s policies are to blame for a nearly 15 percent poverty rate and about a half of Florida households falling into a category economists call “working poor” – unable to cover an unexpected $400 bill, according to the United Way and Florida Chamber studies.

Chris King, Democratic candidate for FL Governor talks about his campaign message during a Tallahassee stop. James Call

“Here’s Rick Scott’s legacy – half the jobs in Florida pay less than $15 an hour,” said King. “After 20 years of one-party rule, it’s time working people had an advocate in Tallahassee who will stand up to the political establishment.”

Ogletree fears more turbulence for public sector workers will be kicked up this summer by the U.S. Supreme Court. It is expected to rule in a case challenging mandatory dues collection for public workers.  An Illinois employee filed a freedom of speech objection to AFSCME membership fees.

Unions expect to lose. The impact will be muted in Florida, a Right-to-Work state, but Ogletree expect labor’s critics to be emboldened by a high court win on the heels of a major victory in the 2018 Florida Legislature.

Lawmakers voted to decertify the teachers’ union locals if membership falls below 50 percent of workers in a bargaining unit.

Labor's leaders say workers have a lot at stake when Florida picks its next governor.

Reporter James Call can be reached at [email protected].