Teacher Strike Changed Labor in Florida

Florida teachers struck for two months in early 1968. Time magazine called Florida the first in the nation to stage a statewide teachers walkout. The strike followed what was then the largest increase in school funding, but the money wasn't enough to make up for crumbling facilities and a doubling of class sizes. That same year, no strike language was added to the state constitution. That led to the right of public employees to bargain for the first time.

"When they added the prohibition against striking by public employees the court said obviously the public employees have the right to bargain," said Attorney Ron Meyer.

Governor Rick Scott spent last week on a statewide education listening tour. He says the Chicago strike came up just once. "There was a teacher that said something like: well, that's not helping us".

But, Scott is facing a law suit filed before he took office. The suit says the state is not living up to another constitutional guarantee, a guarantee of a free high quality public education.

The 1968 strike was the beginning of the divorce between the state and National Teachers Organizations. While the 1968 strike led to enhanced bargaining rights, it also led to severe sanctions for those who would strike.

"There is monetary penalties, a union can be decertified, employees can lose their retirement benefits, they can lose their jobs," said Meyer.

And while they can’t legally strike, Florida teachers are among the most active political groups in the state.

When teachers went on strike in 1968, it was illegal then as well. The leader of the strike was fined thirty thousand dollars and sentenced to two years in prison, but the jail time was later waived.