Tallahassee, FL - Dozens of police and firefighters packed the Senate Committee meeting room to fight what they are calling a Wisconsin type effort to hurt unions.
Jeff McAdams, Gainesville Fraternal Order of Police, says, "This is nothing more than an attempt to eradicate the voice of union members. Mr. Chairman, this is not what our country is all about."
The legislation being carried by Republican heavyweights in both chambers would end payroll deduction of union dues. Sponsor John Thrasher says it has nothing to do with union busting.
Sen. John Thrasher, R-Jacksonville, says, "I think there is an inherent conflict between the state engaging in the deduction of dues, and those dues being used for political purposes."
A chart listing AFLAC insurance and the United Way was put in front of the committee, with Bradenton firefighter Rocco Salvatori asking why it was okay for taxpayers to cover the cost of collecting for those organizations, but not unions.
Rocco Salvatori, Suncoast Professional Firefighters, says, "I have no idea what portion of my premium Cigna spends on political action. Maybe I could get a refund from them, if I don't agree with it."
In debate, one senator called the legislation unfair.
Sen. Tony Hill, D-Jacksonville, says, "When does the elections end and governance begin?"
Another called it political retribution.
Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, says, "I think we're picking a fight with those brave men and women who put their lives on the line for us everyday."
The unions are leaving open the possibility of a lawsuit if their dues collection is halted, but not the collection for dozens of other organizations.