State workers’ union seeks 5 % pay increase; some workers rely on public assistance because of obscenely low wages

labor union photo
Photo has been cropped. Credit: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr. (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

A major state workers’ union says it will be seeking a 5 percent annual pay increase for its employees when it begins negotiations with the state on Friday.

Representatives of AFSCME Florida say most rank-and-file state workers have not had a raise in three years.

“Another year without a raise would be punch in the gut to us,” said Ketha Otis, a vocational rehabilitation technician with the state Department of Education and the president of AFSCME Local 2862. (AFSCME stands for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.)

“We are the front lines in keeping this state functioning properly and we are struggling. We have workers paid so poorly that they have to rely on public assistance. It’s obscene.”

The state workers are also pointing to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ support for a minimum $47,500 salary for teachers, noting many state workers make much less than that and face demanding jobs.

“I have co-workers that do brutal work, they get kicked and punched in the course of their job and then to come home and have to stress about which bills you can afford to pay…it’s sickening,” said Tallulah Thomas, a behavioral program specialist at the Chattahoochee State Hospital. “It’s high time for a raise.”

In addition to the 5 percent raise, AFSCME is also asking the state for a 2 percent cost-of-living allowance.

If Friday’s collective bargaining session in Tallahassee does not result in an agreement, the union and the state will move into a formal impasse, where the two sides will try to resolve their differences over a longer time.