Florida sues White House over funding tied to new state labor law

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) – Florida sued the Biden administration on Wednesday, accusing it of threatening to withhold more than $800 million of funding for transportation infrastructure because of a new state law that some public sector unions have viewed as anti-labor.

Signed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis on May 9, Senate Bill 256 prevents unions representing transportation workers, teachers and other public sector employees from having dues deducted from paychecks, and would instead have employees pay dues to their unions.

Other provisions require employees who want union representation to sign authorization forms, and require unions seeking certification as bargaining agents to show that at least 60% of eligible employees are paying dues.

Florida said the White House is conditioning transportation funding on the state’s agreement not to enforce provisions that the Secretary of Labor believes undermine collective bargaining.

The state said it has “no intention of abolishing the collective bargaining rights of transportation workers,” but that the U.S. Department of Labor’s “ultimatum” should be declared unconstitutional.

Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and their respective agencies are among the defendants.

The Department of Transportation said it cannot discuss pending litigation. The Labor Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Florida passed laws to protect workers from being strong-armed by unions,” Republican state Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a statement. “We’re pushing back against this overreach to protect our state’s autonomy and Florida workers.”

The law exempts unions representing police officers, firefighters and corrections officers.

It quickly spawned litigation, including a lawsuit filed by the Florida Education Association on the same day as DeSantis’ signing.

DeSantis trails Donald Trump in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Biden is a Democrat.

The case is Florida v Buttigieg et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, No. 23-61890.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by David Gregorio)