State Legislative Report by Kevin Byrne
I would like to welcome you all to Orlando for our 76th Biennial State Convention. After almost a year of isolation, I look forward to seeing and talking to many of you over the next few days.
So much has happened since we’ve last met. After four years of being targeted by our past President, we finally elected a President who supports working people. In fact, the election of a labor friendly President was due in no small part to the many union members who made the effort to vote last November. Union members supported the Joe Biden / Kamala Harris ticket by a 21-point margin with 58% of union members voting for Biden / Harris and only 37 % voting to re-elect Trump. Regardless of where you stand politically, no one can deny that as far as the Postal Service goes, we are in a more favorable position under this new administration. Which brings me to my next point.
The priority for the NALC now is the passage of the Postal Service Reform Act of 2021. For the first time in many years, we have the opportunity to pass real meaningful reform. Reform that would repeal the mandate to pre-fund future retiree health benefits, integrate Medicare for postal retirees, and protect six-day delivery permanently. The time is NOW to contact your Congressman and our Senators and ask for their support on H.R. 3076 and S. 1720. Links to find out who your Congressional representatives and Senators are can be found on our website, www.fsalc.com
Our anti-worker state legislature, in their most recent session that adjourned on April 30th, took full advantage of the Coronavirus pandemic. In-person testimony was prohibited in the Florida House and in the Senate, testimony was held remotely and shown via close circuit television. Those wishing to testify in support or in opposition to Senate bills were required to do so from a remote location and were subject to being cut off in the middle of their testimony or subjected to technical difficulties. The AFLCIO’s Working Family Lobby Corps program, however, did not give up. We adapted, held weekly briefings, sent emails, made phone calls, and visited the offices of our members in our home districts to let our legislators know our thoughts.
The top priorities of the AFL-CIO and their final status are listed below:
Of concern to letter carriers, SB 90 passed and will restrict voting options statewide. The bill restricts the way vote by mail ballots may be delivered to polling locations as well as placing restrictions on who can return them.
An effort to bust unions by expanding the membership requirement and banning automatic paycheck deductions for dues, failed.
An attempt to eliminate the Florida Retirement System Public Pension was defeated.
The legislature passed a bill requiring sales taxes to be collected on all internet sales. While this is well needed revenue, the money collected is being diverted to businesses to pay their portion of unemployment taxes.
A bill that would have raised Florida’s maximum unemployment benefit by $100 to $375/week failed. Florida already pays one of the lowest unemployment benefits in the country and makes it extremely difficult for unemployed workers to be eligible to collect anything at all.
Bills were passed that granted immunity to businesses for any damages suffered by customers or employees due to actions taken or not taken as a result of the Coronavirus.
Once again, the legislature, attempted to take the search for college and university presidents, out of the “sunshine”. These positions are some of the most powerful unelected officials in the state and control billions of dollars of taxpayer money. These searches and the hiring process should NOT be hidden from public view.
School boards were once again under attack. The state tried unsuccessfully to place term limits on school boards statewide. School boards remain as the last defense against attempts to privatize public schools here in Florida.
With HB1, freedom of speech in Florida, took a major blow. With the passage of this bill, many more may now be arrested for actions and events most consider protected speech activities.
If these bills sound familiar to you, they should. The Florida AFL-CIO has been fighting many of these same bills year after year. There is no reason to think next session, which will begin in January 2022, things will be different.
It remains to be seen how the AFL-CIO Working Family Lobby Corps program will evolve in the next session. Much will depend on keeping our members safe. Regardless of which form it takes, we will once again, need the help of volunteers to make phone calls, make visits and let your representatives know our positions. Please consider getting involved if you have not made that commitment already.
Although much of what happens in Tallahassee does not affect the postal service directly, we all live in these communities that are affected. Our children go these schools. Our neighbors work in jobs that need our support. Remember the phrase…. “A Rising Tide Lifts All Ships.”
State Legislative Liaison
Florida State Association of Letter Carriers.
Legislative Report Kevin Byrne, State Legislative Liaison, FSALC December, 2020
While the results of the November 3rd election indicate that Joe Biden has sufficient electoral votes to be declared the winner of the presidential election, there are still legal challenges being heard. Up until now, there has been no evidence introduced that supports allegations of voter fraud and there is little chance that any overturned results would achieve a different outcome.
This is good news for letter carriers and postal employees. Since elected, Donald Trump has targeted the postal service and called for cuts to our benefits and collective bargaining rights. He has recently gone as far as to falsely accuse postal employees of tampering with hundreds of thousands of votes to sway the election. With the election of Joe Biden, the NALC has a friend in the White House.
The most important unresolved issue is the runoff primary for both Senate seats in the state of Georgia. Should both democrats win in the January 5th runoff, there will be a tie in the Senate and the tiebreaking vote would then go to the Vice President, Kamala Harris. This presents an opportunity for real postal reform in the next session of congress as well as the opportunity for many other advancements for working families.