Broward News

Florida Teachers Union Hops on the "Sue Rick Scott" Train

In the fourth recent lawsuit targeted at policies of Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Education Association is now suing over a 3 percent pay cut to the salaries of teachers and other school workers.

According to a news release from the union, the lawsuit was entered today in circuit court, alleging that the state enacted unconstitutional legislation in mandating 3 percent of salaries for employees enrolled in the Florida Retirement System count as "contributions" to their retirement benefits.

The lawsuit secondly alleges that the Legislature's actions resulted in a reduction of cost-of-living benefits for those investing into the FRS, which they also contend is unconstitutional.

"This pay cut was used by legislative leadership to make up a budget shortfall on the backs of teachers, law-enforcement officers, firefighters and other state workers," FEA President Andy Ford says in a statement. "It is essentially an income tax levied only on workers belonging to the Florida Retirement System. It's unfair -- and it breaks promises made to these employees when they chose to work to improve our state."

This marks the fourth recent lawsuit targeting the governor, including two from the ACLU of Florida over drug testing of state employees and the state's new voting reform law; and the other filed by several state medical groups over the "glocktor" law.

The text of this lawsuit -- which can be found here -- cites that the mandatory "contributions" to the retirement fund violate three provisions of the Florida Constitution: a stipulation for a noncontributory retirement plan, another for taking private property without full compensation, and another for impairing the right of the employees to engage in collective bargaining.

Florida Statutes, under §121.011(3)(d), has mandated that the retirement system remain noncontributory since July 1, 1974.

If the Florida Education Association wins the lawsuit, it's asking that any funds taken from employees from the new law be returned to them with interest.

Ford says that he's aware of the risk of "incurring the wrath" of Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon but that they're going ahead with the lawsuit anyway.

"The importance of doing the right thing and protecting the constitutional rights of our members trumps the fears of legislative payback," Ford says.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley