AFSCME: Florida's largest state workers union urges negotiators to help break contract impasse

Posted at 2:40 PM, Dec 18, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida's largest state workers union urged Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday to intervene to help break an impasse over a new contract.

At a news conference outside the state Capitol on Wednesday, the AFSCME of Florida repeated its call for 5% raises and 2% cost of living increases for nearly 50,000 state employees, including clerks, administrative assistants, park rangers and other public service employees.

Negotiators reached an impasse last month when DeSantis proposed a budget that did not include raises for state workers, despite his push for $600 million to raise the minimum salary for public school teachers across the state.

The AFSCME says its members and other state workers have had only modest raises in the past 12 years, offset by what it called a pay cut when the state began requiring state workers to contribute 3% of their salaries for pensions.

Two negotiation sessions have already been held, with two more scheduled later this month and in January. Florida employs about 100,000 state workers represented by about a half dozen collective bargaining units.

As a gesture to state employees, DeSantis on Tuesday announced that he'd give days off to state workers on the days before Christmas and New Years -- "in recognition," he said, "of the hard work and dedication of state employees in 2019.

"In 2019, we secured historic achievements on behalf of the people of Florida and our dedicated state employees played a critical role in these accomplishments," DeSantis said in a statement announcing the additional time off. "I am proud to recognize our state employees for their hard work and efforts in this way."

In light of the impasse, the governor's gesture fell flat.

"We appreciate that," said Vicki Hall, the president of the AFSCME in Florida, who said a raise was far more welcomed. "These workers need to be respected. These workers need to be paid correctly," she said.

Despite its absence from the governor's proposed budget, a pay raise isn't necessarily out of the question.

During a meeting with reporters Tuesday, state Senate President Bill Galvano said raises were "not off the table" and that lawmakers will "take a look at how we are paying our state workers."