Protests, rallies and marches, as state workers, educators, push for livable wages, raises, and school improvements

State workers and their supporters hold a rally for pay raises, on Dec. 18, 2019. Credit: Lloyd Dunkelberger

Florida’s state workers are planning massive protests and rallies across Florida this month, hoping to put pressure on lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis to boost pay considered “horrendously low,” according to union officials.

The Florida Education Association toured the state by bus in support of investing in public schools and boosting teacher and staff salaries. Photo by Diane Rado.

And on Monday, thousands of public educators, parents and other school supporters are scheduled to attend a “Take on Tallahassee” march and rally at the Old Capitol on the day before the Florida legislative session begins.

Some 50,000 state employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) are at an impasse and plan to return to bargaining table today, “for the last time” before the Florida Legislature goes into session starting Jan. 14.

“Many state employees across Florida are forced to work multiple jobs or receive public assistance in order to make ends meet,” a union press release says.

At issue is that Gov. Ron DeSantis’s proposed $91.4 billion state budget, which will be considered by lawmakers, leaves out annual pay raises for state workers, even though other groups may be getting pay hikes.

For example, DeSantis has been pushing for a minimum starting salary of $47,500 for public school teachers, as well as increases for correctional officers.

State workers rallied last month at the old Florida Capitol, pushing for pay increases.

The Florida Phoenix wrote last month that “about 82 percent of state workers were classified as ‘career service’ employees in 2017-18, earning an average salary of $37,163, according an annual workforce report from the state Department of Management Services.

Meanwhile, the Monday events, spearheaded by the Florida Education Association, will focus not only on pay raises but overall improved funding for public schools.

State and national education and union leaders are scheduled to attend, including the heads of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, and the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, which went on strike in the fall.

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.