On May 9, 2023, Governor DeSantis signed into law Senate Bill 256 (“SB 256”), which creates several new requirements for certain public-employee organizations (or unions) that represent public employees in collective bargaining. The Bill is set to take effect on July 1, 2023. The Bill exempts unions that represent law-enforcement officers, correctional officers and firefighters from the new restrictions and requirements.
Specifically, the changes made to Chapter 447 of the Florida Statutes through SB 256 will affect public-employee unions that represent general or civilian employees (“Civilian Unions”) in the following manner:
- Employees who wish to join Civilian Unions will be required to sign a membership authorization form with the union that is prescribed by the Public Employees Relations Commission (“PERC”), which must contain specific information.
- Members of Civilian Unions will be allowed to revoke their membership in the organization at any time, and without any reason.
- PERC will be permitted to inspect membership authorization forms and membership revocation forms filed with Civilian Unions.
- Civilian Unions will be prohibited from receiving their members’ dues and assessments via salary deduction from the members’ public employer.
- Additional information related to the number and percentage of dues-paying members in each bargaining unit will need to be included in the annual registration renewal application submitted to PERC by each Civilian Union. In addition, the
- Civilian Union’s current annual financial report must be audited by an independent certified public accountant. This information must also be provided to the public employer on the same day it is filed with PERC.
- Public employers and/or employees who are eligible for representation in the bargaining unit may challenge a registration renewal application filed by a Civilian Union if they believe the application is inaccurate.
- Civilian Unions will be required to petition PERC to be re-certified as the bargaining agent if the number of employees paying dues to the employee organization during the last registration period is less than sixty percent (60%) of the number of employees eligible for representation in the bargaining unit.
- Certified bargaining agents of Civilian Unions will be required to provide its members with an annual audited financial report that includes a detailed breakdown of revenues and expenditures, and an accounting of membership dues and assessments.
- The list of prohibited activities by Civilian Unions and its representatives will be expanded to exclude the offering of compensation, payment, or anything of value to a public officer that the public officer is otherwise prohibited from accepting under FS 112.313(2).
The most notable change made through SB 256 that will likely affect many public employers is the prevention of dues from being deducted from workers’ paychecks, which will in turn force union members to make separate payments to their union for purposes of maintaining union membership.
Accordingly, public employers are advised to review their collective bargaining agreements in place with a Civilian Union to determine if there are any provisions that need to be revised, removed and/or collectively bargained, for purposes of complying with the new laws created under SB 256 before they become effective on July 1, 2023.
As expected, several Civilian Unions have already challenged the constitutionality of the new law by claiming it violates equal-protection rights and collective-bargaining rights under the Florida Constitution, and unconstitutionally impairs already-existing contracts between public employers and those unions (commonly referred to as collective bargaining agreements). Although these challenges are pending, public employers should anticipate that SB 256 will become effective on July 1, 2023.
Should you have any questions about this legislation, please feel free to contact any member of our Labor and Employment team.
The information contained in this document does not constitute legal advice.