SCOTT, STATE LAWMAKERS MAKE TODAY A DARK DAY
Recently, Gov. Rick Scott went to work at a Tampa doughnut shop, all part of his new public relations initiative called "Let's Get to Work." This stems from his 35 percent job-approval rating, which makes him one of the country's least-popular governors. While Scott, who has earned the moniker "Pink Slip Rick," served up the doughnuts, protestors were busy handing him pink slips.
Those pink slips are all too familiar to Floridians. Cuts to the state budget have resulted in layoffs everywhere from school districts to prisons. At 10.7 percent, Florida's unemployment rate is the seventh-highest in the nation. Nearly 1 million jobless Floridians are actively seeking work.
In the last legislative session, Scott signed off on what he called "Florida's first jobs budget," a budget that actually eliminates jobs.
In July, the first month his budget took effect, 22,000 jobs were lost. Scott had vetoed programs for homeless veterans, meals for poor seniors, a children's hospital and cancer research. He slashed education funding while delivering millions in tax cuts and giveaways to corporations. He tried unsuccessfully to weaken the ability of unions to collect dues.
There's no doubt that Scott and some of the state's lawmakers have been influenced by corporate front groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC. ALEC is a conduit between lawmakers and corporations to craft model legislation. It aggressively promotes policies that give prison companies more business, like locking up more prisoners. This may be good for corporate interests, but it's bad for Florida.
I applaud Floridians for taking a stand and letting anti-worker politicians know their state is not for sale. Teamsters are fighting side by side with Florida Department of Corrections officers against Scott and the Legislature's decision to privatize prisons in 18 southern counties. Privatization could result in the loss of up to 4,000 correctional officer jobs within the DOC, the third-largest prison system in the nation.
Teamsters in Florida have also taken legal action on behalf of our members against the state for the recent decision to require state employees to contribute 3 percent of their salaries into the Florida Retirement System. This requirement, which went into effect July 1, has placed a considerable burden on workers already struggling to make ends meet. Meanwhile, Scott and the other state defendants have hired out-of-state attorneys who will be paid $495 an hour to defend this decision.
Scott's decision earlier this year to kill high-speed rail in Florida, along with the 24,000 jobs expected to go with it, was based in part on spurious data from the Reason Foundation, a think tank funded by the union-busting billionaire Koch brothers. Meanwhile, politicians like Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, want to privatize Amtrak and sell our key rail corridor to corporate cronies.
My union fully supports high-speed rail and the union jobs that should go with it. At our Teamsters convention in June, we passed a resolution in support of these jobs with the full backing of our 70,000-member Rail Conference.
We need good jobs to spur the growth of our economy. Real job creation is what Floridians need, not corporate backslapping and the privatization of our most critical services.
This Labor Day, let's hold our politicians accountable to the men and women who make Florida work — the nurses, school teachers, public safety officers, truck drivers and everyday doughnut shop workers.