WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach County high school teacher Donald Persson made two trips to Tallahassee in the last week, hoping to make sure his voice -- and those of many other Florida educators -- is heard by the state Legislature.
"Each time I was up there, they have temporarily postponed both bills, and I think it's because we have a lot of people that are voicing our concern," Persson said.
Both the House and companion bill in the Senate propose to eliminate payroll deductions for union member dues.
"Payroll deductions is the easiest thing," Justin Katz, president of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association, told WPTV. "It goes straight from a paycheck and is remitted by the government -- in this case, the school district -- to the union. If we have to set up our own system, should these bills pass, we will have to effectively become a collection agency and develop a billing process."
Katz said with more than 7,000 members paying dues out of their biweekly paychecks, that would be more than 100,000 financial transactions annually for the organization, increasing the risk of errors and unpaid dues. Katz said that, in turn, could lead to a reduction in membership.
"This is one way to chip away at the strength of what a union can do for its collective bargaining members," Palm Beach County teacher Jacqueline Major said.
A teacher for 29 years, Major said it's always a school employee's choice to join the union and opt in to having the dues reduced from payroll.
The proposal does not impact police or fire union dues.
"Since it's voluntary in Florida to join a union, it just seems like it's being done to deny certain professions, specifically teachers, the ability to organize and associate, which is their right under the First Amendment of the Constitution," Katz said.