HILLSBOROUGH CO., Fla. — Hillsborough County teachers are fed up. It's been six months of back-and-forth negotiations and still no promised raise. But now a powerful new threat looms in the horizon for unions.
A half a year of fruitless negotiations and teachers aren’t any closer to getting their promised $4,000. Now, the union is executing plan Z, their last major move. It’s called an impasse and it hasn’t happened in nearly 25 years.
“It says a lot about how frustrated they [teachers] are and how desperate they are for a change," said Lindsey Blankenbaker with the Hillsborough Classroom Teacher's Association.
It’ll be up to a special magistrate to decide if the district negotiated in good faith. Hillsborough CTA says no — but the district says they’ve already handed out millions in pay and benefits and don’t have the money for a raise that’s not in the contract.
Now, another whammy for the unions. Two weeks ago, Florida lawmakers filed House Bill 7055. It includes a union threshold which requires only teacher’s unions to maintain a 50 percent membership or risk loosing their certification.
"Disastrous, disastrous. Not just to unions but to public education," said Blankenbaker, "If we lose certification then we no longer operate as a certified bargaining agent for Hillsborough County.”
The unions are going on the offense with an online campaign against the nearly 200-page bill.
“We have to look at it as an attack and therefore we have to be ready to stand up against it and fight," said Blankenbaker.
Ready to fight because while their teacher membership is hovering just above 50 percent that’s not the case for their education support staff. For these paraprofessionals, assistant teachers and clerical workers, should the bill pass, it could mean the union will not be able to bargain for them.
“We are very fearful for what that would mean for our schools," said Blankenbaker.
ABC Action News reached out the proponent Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and the two bill's sponsors. We heard back from the office of Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr. They tell us the language of the bill does not "disallow" unions. Also that the overall bill, which also includes a tax credit for private schools, will be the "flexibility for our public schools that allows for 21st century innovation."
The Hillsborough County School District tells us it is monitoring the bill to see what ends up on the final version.