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Ranking Member Cassidy Blasts DOL Retaliating Against Florida, Illegally Withholding Federal Dollars on Behalf of Labor Unions

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, blasted the Department of Labor (DOL) for illegally withholding $800 million in federal funding from the State of Florida as retaliation against the state’s recent efforts to protect workers from union coercion and abuse. This illegal action has serious implications for other states that are considering similar legislation. 

In May 2023, the State of Florida passed legislation to empower public sector employees by prohibiting automatic paycheck deductions for union dues and allowing these workers to revoke their union membership if they decide the union is not working in their best interest.  

In response, DOL stated that the new law “jeopardizes [Florida’s] continued eligibility to receive Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding” and directed the FTA to withhold $800 million in grants from the state based on the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964. The law empowers the Secretary of Labor to withhold federal transit funding if a collective bargaining agreement between a state transit agency requesting government funding and a union representing the employees is not “fair and equitable” and fails to uphold the existing agreement. However, the new Florida law does not alter existing collective bargaining agreements, making DOL’s efforts to withhold federal funding a clear violation of federal law.  

This is part of a troubling pattern of the Biden administration weaponizing the federal government to promote policies that target workers’ freedoms to court the political backing of large labor unions.  

“The Department of Labor is threatening Florida and other states that may seek to empower workers and increase union transparency, in violation of federal law. This is completely unacceptable,” said Dr. Cassidy. “This is yet another example of the Biden administration weaponizing its enforcement power to tip the scale in favor of its political allies – not the American worker.” 

Read the full letter here or below.  

Dear Acting Secretary Su:

In May 2023, the Florida legislature passed and Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law Senate Bill 256 (SB 256). According to a lawsuit filed in October 2023 by the State of Florida, the Department of Labor (DOL) stated that inclusion of transportation workers in SB 256 jeopardizes nearly $800 million in federal grant funding from the Federal Transit Administration.[1]

DOL claims to have the right to withhold such funding under Section 13(c) of the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964. Section 13(c) states that the Secretary of Labor must certify that an agreement between the transit agency requesting government funding and the union representing those employees is “fair and equitable” and that there is a “continuation of collective bargaining rights.” DOL filed a motion to dismiss the case. The case relied on, however, upheld only the Secretary’s authority to determine whether collective bargaining agreements between the union and the transit authority are “fair and equitable.” There is no collective bargaining agreement at issue here since existing agreements would remain in effect. The Florida statute merely ensures that the state’s public employees can freely choose whether to join or remain in a union.[2] In fact, the right to join a labor union and bargain collectively is enshrined in the Florida Constitution.[3]

Please provide the following information regarding the decision to threaten to withhold federal funding by close of business on June 20, 2024.

  1. Any and all legal analysis justifying the DOL overriding DOT’s grant decision by withholding $800 million in federal grant funding from the State of Florida.
  2. Any and all criteria that the Department used to determine if agreements between the applicant for federal assistance and the bargaining representative of its employees are “fair and equitable.”
  3. A justification as to why a temporary waiver is insufficient to meet the federal funding requirements.
  4. Any and all communication with transportation unions in Florida regarding the decision-making process to revoke the grants.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

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