Late Tuesday afternoon, as the Florida House of Representatives was in the middle of a debate on a controversial teacher merit bill that would do away with tenure and require that half of a teacher's performance would be based on student test scores, a group of approximately 100 protesters gathered on both the west and east sides of Florida Avenue in front of the federal courthouse, protesting Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature's agenda this session, such as that bill (SB 736 in the Senate) as well as others that target unions.
Protester Chris Regalado is with the IBEW Local 824 out of Tampa. She was holding a sign that read, "This is what happens when nobody votes." She complained that though Rick Scott and other Republicans who campaigned and won last November on the theme of getting Florida back to work, "basically what they're doing is trying to dismantle the middle class and targeting unions, and teachers, you know? We've lost the jobs with high-speed rail, and now we're going after collective bargaining. "
Standing down the street from Regalado on the west side of Florida Avenue where the shade dominated was retired professor Joyce Stevens, whose sign said, "Invest in education, not war." She said she believed that Rick Scott and the GOP-led Legislature's "real agenda" was to "obliterate the unions."
In fact there are several proposals in the Legislature that take aim at unions. On Monday, the Senate Community Affairs Committee advanced a bill on a narrow 5-4 vote (Jim Norman voted no) that would prevent the automatic deduction of union dues from workers' paychecks.
"I never thought we had to fight this battle for collective bargaining rights again," Stevens said. "What kind of nonsense is this that if they keep at it, they will destroy the middle class," she said of the John Thrasher-sponsored bill.