AFSCME Helps Awake the State at Start of Florida Legislative Session

The first day of each 60-day Florida legislative session is steeped in custom, from the cornucopia of floral arrangements to speeches by the governor and legislative leaders, and now includes a more recent tradition – Awake the State.

For the eighth year, members and leaders from Florida’s labor unions, consumer rights, environmental community and other grassroots organizers held a series of press conferences across the state. The goal is to highlight the legislative solutions necessary to advance a Florida that works for every Floridian, not just the wealthy and well-connected. Local leaders and advocates called on Gov. Rick Scott and his allies in the legislature to pass a budget that invests in hardworking Floridians, not more massive corporate giveaways. Doing so will help lay the foundation for a thriving, secure job market and high quality of life for all Floridians.

“I’m tired of the lies told about respect for our freedoms and rights while legislation like HB 25 is advanced that would dismantle the protections of teachers, nurses, bus drivers and other vital public servants, eliminating their voice and stripping them of their right to speak up,” said AFSCME Florida Executive Director Andy Madtes at the Miami event. “I’m tired of the state budget lies told while our taxes are spent rewarding wealth over hard work so that we don’t have enough money to invest in our roads, invest in our environment, invest in our state workforce. Yet, somehow, we have enough to invest in unjust, counterproductive immigration policies that tear families apart.”

Partners included the Florida AFL-CIO, SEIU Florida, Progress Florida, For Florida’s Future, Florida Conservation Voters, Florida NOW, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Planned Parenthood, Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy, ACLU of Florida and many other national, state and local organizations.

This year, AFSCME members are focused on building on the success of last year’s session, which included the first pay raise for state workers in a decade. The priorities range from protecting pensions and the state’s environment to increasing staffing levels at state agencies and fulling implementing the Affordable Care Act. Legislative efforts to stop HB25 and fix the funding formula for country Clerks of Court have already started. Also moving forward is legislation that would grant special risk status to state employees at health care facilities for criminal or mental ill patients and front-line public service aids are already moving forward following the last few months of committee hearings.

“I may be tired of the lies but I’m wide awake to how much what goes on in Tallahassee impacts all of our lives,” said Madtes. “AFSCME members will work hand in hand with our brothers and sisters to ensure our voices are heard today, tomorrow, throughout this session and this November.”