HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – The Florida State Legislative Board invited two Florida state politicians to address attendees at the August regional meeting. While there, both pledged to continue their advocacy for labor while thanking members for their support.
State Rep. Joe Geller (D – Dist. 100) said that an inhospitable political climate at the moment in the Florida Legislature won’t deter him from fighting against anti-labor policies in Tallahassee.
“I’m one of the people in Tallahassee who doesn’t make any bones about where I stand,” he said at the Aug. 6 lunch break. “I’m pro-union. I’m pro-labor. I stand with working men and women because working men and women are who built this country.”
Geller said better wages, a support system for the impoverished, improved workplace safety and aid to public schools came as a result of the labor movement’s efforts.
“Labor is what made this country what it is today, and we all need to stand together with the labor movement, and I always will,” he said.
Geller, a former mayor and former Miami-Dade County Democratic Party chairman, said it’s easy to identify those who oppose labor – they constantly look to cut those things that unions have clawed and fought to achieve.
“There is no mistake that there is an assault on the rights of working men and women around our country and right here in this state. We’ve got to stand up and all stand together — link our arms together as men and women and stand for the rights for working people, especially to organize and be treated fairly,” he said.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision in June is one example of this assault, and things will need to be done legislatively to fix the damage done by the decision as well as to further protect workers.
“If we don’t stand with each other, we’re not going to be able to withstand this right-wing assault on working men and women that happens in so many ways,” Geller said. “Don’t feel like you’re alone. There’s plenty of us out there who see what they’re trying to do and won’t stand for it.
“We will not quietly go along with these plans to undermine working men and women and their chosen labor organizations. We’re here to fight, and we need everybody to stand together and fight this fall in the most important mid-term election that this country has ever seen.”
State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D – Dist. 37) began his speech at the Aug. 7 opening session with a message of thanks to members.
“Thank you for staying active in your union, staying informed, for volunteering, for voting,” Rodriguez said.
At the state level in Florida, he said legislation to improve safety conditions for rail workers and bus operators is a priority, but it’s been difficult to make progress.
“I wish there was more that we could do in our current political climate to move the needle,” Rodriguez said. “In the Legislature, it’s mainly just been about holding the line against some of the attacks that Mr. Brodar had been talking about.”
SMART Transportation Division General Counsel Kevin Brodar spoke immediately before Rodriguez about the Janus decision.
Rodriguez’s mother was a union nurse, and he saw the benefits that came from union membership growing up and then later as a labor attorney when cases involving worker safety and workers’ rights came up.
But there are deep-pocketed interests that aren’t even allowing labor-related issues to be placed on the Legislature’s agenda, Rodriguez said.
“We really need to change the political culture, the political climate,” he said.
Geller and Rodriguez both took time to acknowledge the work of Florida State Legislative Director Andres Trujillo, who, along with Legislative Vice Chairperson Eduardo Guillen and Local 1138 Secretary & Treasurer Terry Hobbs, served as the local committee for the meeting at the Hilton Diplomat Resort.
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