That Union Thing

Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford has ruled that legislation passed by Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature requiring state workers to pay 3 percent of their salaries into their pension fund is a violation of the state constitution.

The state's failure to renegotiate the salaries, rather than changing them unilaterally, was an "unconstitutional taking of private property without full compensation," Fulford wrote. It breached workers' right "to collectively bargain over conditions of employment." The state constitution guarantees workers the right to collectively bargain over wages and conditions of employment, and Fulford stated that the power over appropriations does not usurp their duty to negotiate in good faith with public employees. The decision could cost the state $2 billion and is being appealed.

The Federal Circuit Court that Palm Beach Metro Transportation violated federal laws by reducing workers' hours without first negotiating with Amalgamated Transit Union. 120 bus drivers could receive $2 million in back pay as a result of this ruling.

Flight attendants for Spirit Airlines picketed Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in protest of slow contract talks, which have been ongoing since 2007. Current negotiations between Spirit and the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA are being supervised by the National Mediation Board. Key issues under negotiation include wages, healthcare benefits, and rest periods.

In the two years since the recession ended in June 2009, inflation-adjusted median household income fell 6.7 percent. In the first full year of the recovery, 93 percent of the income gains went to the top one percent of earners. The top one percent gained on average $105,637, while the bottom 99 percent gained $80, and the bottom 90 percent actually lost $127.

Florida has passed legislation allowing state agencies to randomly drug-test employees, making it the first state in the country with such a law. No money was allocated for the tests, so it is expected that funding will come out of existing department budgets. Members of the legislature are exempt from these tests. Critics state that suspicionless testing violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure, and it is expected that the law will be challenged in the courts.


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