The state of Florida has filed a lawsuit against five Biden administration officials, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, three federal agencies and the United States itself over what it argues is federal overreach into labor relations in the state.
The suit, filed Wednesday, argues that the former mayor of the the fourth-largest city in Indiana, the Federal Transit Administration, the Departments of Labor and Transportation, and several officials overseeing those agencies have illegally threatened to withhold federal grants over a new union law to which the Biden administration objects.
The law, a top priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis, took effect on July 1, made the process for “decertifying” unions easier and prohibits some state employers from collecting union dues by withholding them from employee paychecks.
Florida’s Public Employee Relations Commission, which Politico reported is run by political appointees of the governor, can issue waivers to the new law, and the Department of Labor has said that some federal grants will be withheld unless the commission permanently waives the new requirements for mass transit workers.
In August, the Florida Public Transportation Association said in a letter to PERC that more than $800 million in federal grants was at risk.
PERC had agreed to conditional waivers with expiration dates, but the Labor Department said only permanent waivers would meet federal requirements.
Thus, the lawsuit, which calls the federal government’s actions “flagrantly unconstitutional.”
“It asks a federal judge to block the agencies from withholding federal grants as well as declare unconstitutional the part of the federal law the Department of Labor is relying on to question Florida’s law,” Politico reported Wednesday.
The suit concedes that employees have a right to unionize, but argues that current Biden administration policies are tantamount to requiring public employees to do so.
“Public sector employees have a constitutional right to decide whether to participate in a union,” the 18-page complaint begins. “The Biden Administration, however, seeks to elevate the political and financial interests of Florida’s public sector unions over the rights of working class Floridians to make that decision for themselves.”
“Florida passed laws to protect workers from being strong-armed by unions,” state Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a statement. “Biden, intent on driving our country into the ground, continues to try to force states to implement his bad policies.”
You can read the lawsuit in its entirety below.
Politico noted that court challenges to Florida’s new law had been filed, but that at least one had already been thrown out.
Florida’s constitution guarantees collective bargaining rights, which the suit says the state has no intention of violating, despite cries of “union busting” by DeSantis’ critics.
An unnamed spokesperson for Buttigieg and the Department of Transportation would not comment when asked by Politico, citing the “ongoing litigation.”