The first hearing on FEA’s challenge to the constitutionality of SB 736 was held yesterday (Wednesday) in the Leon County Courthouse in Tallahassee. While no decision was rendered, lawyers for both sides met before Circuit Judge John Cooper for a little more than two hours.
The judge had read the written documents and arguments submitted by both sides and spend the full two hours asking questions of both sides. Tom Brooks handled most of the questions for FEA’s side of the argument, with some help from Ron Meyer. The state’s case was argued by Michael Mattimore, a high-priced Tallahassee attorney.
Brooks and Meyer argued that the changes brought about by SB 736 represented substantial changes to the wages, benefits and working conditions that are covered by the state’s collective bargaining laws.
Mattimore said the Legislature “tweaked” those laws and that our side “just didn’t like the tweaks.”
Meyer countered that Senate Bill 736 went too far. “I’m reminded of the old saw attributable to Henry Ford: ‘You can have any color Model T as long as it’s black,'” Meyer said. “That’s what they say in this statute: You can have a salary schedule that has to look exactly like this.”
The judge stated his job was to determine whether the new law intrudes too deeply on negotiations between teachers and their employers. “The only issue for me is whether that policy, good or bad, affects collective bargaining.”
Judge Cooper said he would need to read all the written arguments again and may call both sides back into court if he had any other questions. His ruling isn’t expected soon and no matter what he rules, the case is likely to be appealed, perhaps all the way to the Florida Supreme Court.
Again, this case is another prime example of why being part of our union is a professional obligation. No other organization is fighting for us. We cannot be passive bystanders. We must be part of the fight by being active and informed members. Without our dues, USEP, FEA and our national affiliates wouldn’t be able to take on the tough challenges to our professionalism and our careers. If you’re not yet a member, please join!