Florida Politics | by Renzo Downey | April 6, 2021
‘As a teacher, I feel attacked.’
The Florida Education Association is launching a digital ad campaign to stir opposition to legislation teachers say would weaken their unions.
With four 30-second ads released Monday, FEA is targeting that legislation (SB 1014/HB 835), carried by Sen. Dennis Baxley in the Senate. The Ocala Republican calls the bill a “paycheck protection” effort.
The Senate bill, named directly in the ads, would prevent unions from deducting dues from teachers’ paychecks and require teachers to reaffirm each year that they aren’t required to be union members.
The ads feature three teachers arguing the proposal would take away teachers’ personal freedoms and their ability to advocate on behalf of their students. The ads run Monday, ahead of the proposal’s hearing scheduled for Tuesday in the Senate Rules Committee.
“When I hear some state lawmakers come after my freedoms, as a teacher, I feel attacked,” public school teacher Mary Morton says in one ad. “Tallahassee has no right to tell me how to advocate for my students.”
Among the featured teachers is Amy Hawkins, a Volusia County elementary school teacher who says she has been a Republican voter for 20 years.
“The lawmakers in Tallahassee seem to have forgotten how big this really is, and how much we’ve really done, when they try to pass bills like this that want to shut down my ability to continue to work for my students,” she said in a statement.
Retired Army 1st Lt. Lare Allen also called on Floridians to urge their lawmakers to protect teachers’ rights in another ad.
“Thirty years ago, I fought in Desert Storm to protect America’s freedom,” Allen says. “Now state lawmakers are trying to take away my freedom, as a teacher, to advocate for my students. That’s wrong.”
In the fourth ad, all three teachers share the spotlight in their call to action.
FEA is Florida’s largest teachers union.
In a press release, the association called the Senate bill and its House companion “an unconscionable assault” on K-12 teachers and higher education faculty’s rights and freedoms. Additional paperwork created under the bill could potentially cost $400,000, the union added.
During the Senate bill’s first hearing last month in the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, Baxley said he was trying to eliminate school districts as the middleman between teachers and unions. Automatic paycheck deductions don’t have to be the only way to pay union dues, he suggested.
Dozens of teachers turned out to oppose the bill during the committee meeting.
“I’m not after you, or I’m not trying to bother you,” Baxley told teachers. “As a matter of fact, I think it’s simply inappropriate to be intertwined with this publicly held system of a school system with the work of an advocacy group that are advocates — and not inappropriately so — for its members, not for the children.”
Lawmakers have proposed similar bills this Session to limit union deductions, including outside of the teaching realm. The Rules Committee is also slated to hear a bill (SB 78) addressing union dues for public employees that was initially moving quickly through the Senate committee process, but has hit a couple delays on its path to a full vote.
Photo: Image via YouTube, Florida Education Association.