Bill Limiting Union Dues Postponed as Labor Tries to Stop It; Thrasher Denies He's Trying to Get Back at Education Association

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Byline: BRANDON LARRABEE

TALLAHASSEE - A Senate committee delayed the first hearing on a bill restricting the collection and use of union dues Monday, as organized labor ramped up the campaign to swat the bill away.

The decision to postpone Senate Bill 830 - which would bar state and local governments from deducting union dues from an employee's paycheck and allow employees to ask for a refund of any dues used for political purposes - came near the end of a Monday committee meeting where lawmakers were scheduled to take up the bill for the first time.

Sen. Michael Bennett, R-Bradenton, chairman of the committee, said there was not enough time to get public input and vote on the bill Monday. He promised to take it up next week.

Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, sponsor of the bill, said the bill would give workers a greater voice in how their dues are used and keep the state "neutral" in its relationship with unions by ending what amounts to taxpayer involvement in labor politics.

"I don't think most of them want to be in the business of collecting union dues," he said.

But labor groups say the bill is an effort to silence them and weaken opposition to a series of business-friendly measures and budget cuts at workers' expense expected under new Gov. Rick Scott and a Legislature dominated by Republicans. Outside the committee room Monday, union members and students staged a demonstration against the measure by taping their mouths shut and forming a sort of corridor leading near the door.

"As an ordinary citizen, I cannot compete with Tallahassee, with big business, and their lobbyists," said Jayne Walker, a public transportation supervisor in Orlando and financial secretary of her local union. …