Florida Law Threatens to Defund, Disband Higher Ed Unions

Ryan Quinn from Inside Higher Ed reports.  Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation last year threatening to decertify unions if fewer than 60 percent of bargaining unit members paid dues. Faculty unions are threatened but not yet erased.

In May 2023, two weeks before Florida governor Ron DeSantis officially announced his run for the Republican presidential nomination, he signed a law threatening public sector unions’ continued funding—and existence.

Senate Bill 256 said that if fewer than 60 percent of workers in a union’s bargaining unit paid dues, employees who wanted to keep their union representation would have to win another representation election. Simultaneously, the new law forbade public employers, such as state colleges and universities, from deducting union dues from the paychecks of workers who wanted to pay those dues, forcing unions to find another way to collect that money.

The law also required that employees who wish to join unions sign “membership authorization forms” that show the names, salaries and other compensation, “including reimbursements,” paid to the union’s five highest-compensated employees.

Public college and university unions weren’t exempted from these effects of the law, as unions representing law enforcement officers, correctional officers and firefighters were. DeSantis’s office didn’t provide an interview Wednesday; a spokeswoman referred to comments he made Tuesday to conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch.

“Parents in some of these deep blue states, they send their kids to school and it’s pure indoctrination, and they don’t want that,” DeSantis said. “They know if they go to Florida, they’ve got a state government, certainly me as governor, but also our legislature that’s fighting for them and for their kids and I would point out because I think this does tie into the indoctrination issue. We did paycheck protection for teacher union dues … We empowered the rank and file to say, ‘wait a minute, this union is pursuing a political agenda.’”

While DeSantis’s presidential campaign is over, the law lives on. The dues deduction shutoff took effect in July, and other provisions took effect in October, all affecting higher education unions. State lawmakers sent DeSantis another bill this year to update the law, including adding paramedics to the exempted unions. He has yet to sign it.