In Florida, Stepping Up the Drive for Respect

by Mark McCullough  |  February 01, 2016

In Florida, Stepping Up the Drive for Respect

The hardworking AFSCME Florida women and men who serve in state government, now in the midst of contract negotiations, have ramped up their internal organizing campaign while reaching out to elected officials, talking about what it means to invest in state services and those who provide them.

And leaders across the state, on both sides of the political aisle, are asking the question if Florida is investing enough in these dedicated employees, and if there are adequate staffing levels and proper compensation for taxpayers to get the level of services they deserve. 

Florida now has fewer than 100 full-time state employees per 10,000 residents – less than half the national average – a result of anti-worker Gov. Rick Scott’s relentless cuts. As positions have been cut, overtime and weekend work have become expected just to keep up.

“If you want good government then you have to pay for it,” said state Sen. Bill Montford.

“If you want government to run efficiently, like a business, then you have to have an adequate number of employees, but we don’t even know how many state employees we should have in Florida.”

At the same time, state employees have gone eight years without a change in their pay, not even cost of living adjustments. The year they did get a 3 percent increase was the same year they were required to pay 3 percent more into their retirement. Not surprisingly, even as there are fewer positions, the high turnover rate has led to a sharp increase in job vacancies as fewer people see a career in public service as rewarding.

Senate Pres. Andy Gardiner told reporters before the start of the legislative session that he wants to see consideration of a pay raise for state employees as part of the overall budget.

While there is a long way to go, the progress made so far proves that when members get AFSCME Strong, take a bipartisan approach to nonpartisan issues and provide quality public services, lawmakers will listen.

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