Florida Teamsters faced a daunting task during the 2020-21 state legislative session – holding off a Republican-controlled Legislature that seemed dead set on rolling back workers’ rights and undermining unions.
But joining together with labor and progressive allies in the state, Teamster locals in Joint Council 75 mobilized members to let lawmakers know they valued being Teamsters and didn’t want the state to make it harder for the union to advocate on their behalf. That resulted in two separate bills failing to advance to the floor for a vote before the legislative session ended on April 30.
With Republican majorities in both the state House and Senate, Florida Teamsters have long understood the necessity of developing relationships with members on both sides of the aisle. Over time they have done just that, based on the understanding that supporting workers doesn’t have to be a partisan issue. The work that went into building that foundation is what gave unions in Florida a fighting chance to defeat these bills.
“It really was a collective effort and a good job by our team,” Local 769 President and Joint Council 75 Political Coordinator Josh Zivalich said. “The far right that was making an effort in the Florida Legislature saw they were in for a fight.”
Andy Madtes and David Renshaw, both Local 769 business agents, together drove up to Tallahassee so they could be present at a critical Senate Rules Committee meeting where SB 1014 – which would have required onerous recertification rules for public sector unions and outlawed mutually negotiated paycheck deductions – was to be heard.
During the long trip from South Florida, they helped prepare for a final push to stop the legislation in its tracks. Working in conjunction with other Teamster locals, the AFL-CIO and other labor allies, they reached out to members by phone, email, text and social media to make sure they contacted their elected officials and urged them to vote no.
“While Andy was driving, I was handling the computer and doing social media and calls,” Renshaw said. Madtes added, “There was a lot of Hustling going on during that eight-hour drive.”
They showed up the morning of the hearing and were in the front row. Then they waited. By noon, the hearing still hadn’t started. Soon thereafter, they were notified that SB 1014 would not be considered at the hearing. Teamsters and others had secured enough Republican support that it was clear to Senate leadership that they didn’t have the votes to pass the bill on the floor, thus ensuring the bill would not be enacted during the 2021 session.
Similarly, another bill considered by the Legislature that would have forced unions to re-sign all of their members every three years did not advance thanks to significant pressure applied to targeted state senators by union households and retirees.
“We got it done through individuals playing the role of activists in their homes,” Renshaw said. “I saw a lot more members engaged in this and so did our state senators.”
Florida Teamsters intend to use the lessons learned during these legislative fights to prepare for 2022. They know lawmakers will attempt to bring these anti-union bills and others up again next year. But the Teamsters will be ready to fight!