House bill could threaten Florida teachers' unions

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - An education bill could threaten teachers' unions in the state of Florida.

Alexis Underwood, President of the Association of Bay County Educators, addressed her concerns of House Bill 7055 during Tuesday afternoon's Bay District School Board meeting.

The Florida Senate website shows the bill is more than 100 pages long, covering topics from prohibiting former superintendents from some lobbying activities to designating March 25 of each year as "Medal of Honor Day."

This is also the same bill proposing the "Hope Scholarship," which gives a student subjected to bullying, harassment, and intimidation, among other offenses, to either transfer to another public school or request a scholarship to attend an eligible private school.

Underwood told us what has her concerned is language about teachers' unions. She said, if the bill is passed, teachers' unions could be decertified if their membership is not at least 50 percent.

"If less than 50 percent of them belong to the Association of Bay County Educators, we would lose our union status. My union would be dissolved," Underwood said.

Underwood believes this is important because ABCE serves as the bargaining team for teachers in Bay County during contract negotiations.

She said her union sits "just above the safety zone" at about 53 percent.

House Bill 25, as we previously covered, also addresses decertifying labor organizations under those same circumstances, but excludes law enforcement officers, correctional officers, and firefighters.

She explained that Florida is a "right to work" state, meaning educators are not required to join a union.

Underwood said this education bill, because of its size and scope, is similar to House Bill 7069, which passed in 2017.

"This year, they've [lawmakers] put it in the same bill that contains funding for the schools themselves," she said.

If passed, the bill would be effective July 1, 2018.