MILTON — The Santa Rosa County School District is out for summer and students and teachers are enjoying the time off. But during the off months, the Santa Rosa Professional Educators organization is trying to preserve its union.
A recent Florida legislative bill has placed it in a state of uncertainty, according to union attorney Mathew Hargraves.
According to House Bill 7055, teacher unions are required to document the percentages of dues-paying members within the ranks they represent. Unions which fail to get 50 percent of "instructional personal" would face decertification as collective bargaining units by the state Public Employees Relations Commissions, the bill said.
Hargraves said Santa Rosa's teachers union falls below the 50 percentile mark of its 2,055 district instructional employees, but added that it does not mean that the union faces immediate decertification.
"PERC has not issued the order to decertify," Hargraves said. "Yes, decertification is a possible outcome. I do not expect that to be the outcome."
He said that because the union falls under the required paying membership requirements, the organization had to file for re-certification. Hargraves said that as part of the recertification process, the union must conduct a vote of all instructional members on whether it will continue to represent them as well as send in "interest cards" from at least 30 percent of the employees.
John Showalter, general council for PERC, said Santa Rosa's union has already sent in more than 690 interest cards and has met that requirement for recertification. He said the organization filed for the recertification May 6 and PERC is reviewing the application.
Hargraves said the union has been operating continuously since the 1970s. He said last year the organization had an election in wich it was challenged by a competing union to represent teachers and won. He said he feels that the instructional staff will continue to support the organization representing them.
"I'm not predicting an outcome," he said. "We feel confident going into a certification election, since we recently had another, exactly the same type of election, and the member of the bargaining unit expressed a pretty solid feeling that SRPE should be the ones representing them."
If the outcome of the election is that SRPE is decertified, the School District could face not having a union to represent teachers in contract negotiations. Hargraves said Santa Rose Professional Educators could still represent employees on an individual basis.
Currently no set date for the re-certification election has been made according the PERC office.