DeSantis delivers a political smackdown as Miami teachers union struggles to survive

Trashing labor unions, in particular teachers unions, has become a talking point for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on the presidential trail. He told California Gov. Gavin Newsom during their Fox News debate that Democrats are “owned lock, stock and barrel, by the teachers union.”

What does that look on the ground, when laws DeSantis signed singling out some types of public-sector unions start to take effect?


The results may be upwards of 30,000 school employees being left without representation to bargain for better pay and working conditions.

The state’s largest teachers union, United Teachers of Dade, is close to decertification thanks to a new law that requires unions have at least 60% of union members pay dues, the Herald reported. The law — Senate Bill 256 — was a union-busting one-two-punch that not only raised the threshold for certification from 50%, but also prohibited unions from deducting dues directly from members’ paychecks. UTD, which represents teachers in the state’s biggest school district in Miami-Dade County, has gained 800 new members, but still failed to meet the state’s stringent requirements. In November, the Herald reported union membership was at 58.4%.

The Republican anti-union spiel usually leaves out the fact that Florida, unlike many blue states, is among 26 states that have “right to work” laws. That means workers cannot be forced to join a union and pay dues as a condition of employment. In other words, teachers and school staff do not have to be part of United Teachers of Dade to benefit from the 7% to 10% pay raise the union negotiated with the school district this year,

Teacher unions became a preferred target of DeSantis during his fight to reopen schools during the pandemic and to eliminate anything he deems “woke” indoctrination in schools. The governor has gone even further by demonizing teachers, who have been muzzled on what they say about race and LGBTQ issues in the classroom.

Unions, like all organizations, have had very public shortcomings, such as protecting bad employees from accountability. But if we’re talking about unions that are too powerful, we cannot leave out police and firefighter unions, whose endorsements DeSantis and other Republican gladly accept. It turns out SB 256 exempted those unions — along with those representing corrections officers — from that 60% threshold requirement.

In other words, the law affects organizations that have directly clashed with DeSantis and the Republican-led Legislature. United Teachers of Dade was among the most vocal groups pushing back against the parental-rights law critics call “Don’t say gay,” laws that made it easier for organizations like Moms for Liberty to push schools to ban books, and DeSantis’ infamous “Stop Woke Act,” which bans instructions that some may interpret as making students feel guilty about being white. UTD President Karla Hernandez-Mats ran against DeSantis in 2022 as Charlie Crist’s running mate.

Meanwhile, groups like the Police Benevolent Association, the largest police union in the state, have been in lockstep with Republicans. In June, the PBA endorsed DeSantis for president, despite supporting Donald Trump in 2020.

Masked as a measure to hold unions accountable, SB 256 was a version of the same kind of political payback Disney received when it opposed the “Don’t say gay” law.

This is exactly the type of pain the new state law appears to seek to inflict. In Florida, opposition to the party in power comes with a high cost.

— The Miami Herald

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